CALERA – A summer thunderstorm created havoc Thursday evening in Calera, as high winds caused widespread damage and knocked out power to the whole town for more than an hour.
Calera’s Emergency Operations Center Director Joel “Butch” Scalf said a possible microburst from a thunderstorm pummeled most of Calera with high winds. A weather reading at nearby Eaker Field recorded a gust of 72 m.p.h. – just under hurricane strength.
“We had this storm build up south of Calera instantly,” he said. “It went from nothing to 60,000-foot (cloud)tops. I went to check the radar and the power went out. It was that quick.”
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for southern Bryan County at 5:24 p.m., while it was still sunny in Calera. The storm formed in Grayson County, Texas, and moved quickly north.
Scalf said there was some quarter-inch size hail with the storm, but the significant factor was the wind. Hardest-hit areas were Chickasaw Road, south Calera, and a neighborhood to the west of Calera schools. Limbs and trees fell on powerlines, causing electricity outages.
“OG&E was right on the spot. They worked tirelessly until they got all the limbs off,” Scalf said. By Friday morning, all but a handful of homes had power restored.
Many residents lost carports and storage sheds, but there was no major damage to any homes. “We’re thankful nobody was injured,” Scalf said. “There was no severe damage, but there will be a lot of roofers working around here.”
He also praised Calera Police and Public Works for clearing debris from US 75 and other roadways at the height of the storm. A billboard blew onto the highway, causing quite a scene for motorists who also witnessed Officer T.J. White and Rusty Gould scrambling to remove the debris.
Calera resident LT Townley was picking up tree limbs from his McKennon Avenue property on Friday morning. A large tree fell on a storage shed, and many limbs were down but they all managed to miss the houses on this block.
“Some wind came in from the west and the east, they mixed up and made a big storm,” he said. “There are trees down all over town. I could use some help, but I imagine I can get it cleaned up in two or three days.”
Scalf said the city would announce a special debris pickup date soon.
Calera firefighters also responded to a grass fire on South Kiersey Road during the height of the storm around 6 p.m. Thursday. Durant firefighters were called to assist.
Durant Fire Department also responded to a “supposed lightning strike” around 6:45 p.m. at Old Highway 70 East and Hunnicutt Lane. The lightning hit a power pole which sparked a small grass fire, quickly extinguished by the fire personnel.