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Storms hit region: Wind topples trees, knocks out power

Jennifer Sprouse • Jul 5, 2012 at 9:30 PM

Storms blew into the region Thursday afternoon, leaving many places in the area with downed trees and power lines.

Sam Roberts, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, said the storms originated in portions of southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky and then came down through Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee

“We actually had a pretty good heads up on them. We kind of watched them coming down from the north all day long and ... we had a severe thunderstorm watch out for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia earlier,” Roberts said. “It’s really been widespread — it seems like a lot of areas have been affected, not just one. The winds were pretty strong.”

He said the storms moved into the area around 3 p.m. bringing with them heavy gusts of winds close to 50, 60 and possibly even 65 mph.

Damages were reported in Washington, Carter, Johnson and Unicoi counties, including fallen trees in neighborhoods and on cars, downed power lines and power outages. No injuries were reported in the aftermath of the storm.

Damage in the area also included scattered tree limb debris and numerous traffic accidents. Restonic Mattress, 250 W. Market St., reported roof damage, as many streets in the downtown area reported downed lines and trees.

“All of this damage has just been pretty much straight line wind damage,” Roberts said.

He said Washington County, along with Sevier and Hamblen counties, was one of the counties that reported damage and storm activity.

Randall Lewis, assistant director of Washington County 911, said between 4 and 5 p.m., the agency answered 285 911 and administrative calls.

Along with the downed trees and power lines, he said there were a few traffic accidents and major intersections without power.

“The (Johnson City) Power Board has quite a few people without power,” Lewis said.

He said the severe storm brought out emergency teams, including the Johnson City Police Department, Johnson City Fire Department, Washington County Highway Department and the Johnson City Street Department, as well as the Power Board.

Around 5 p.m. the Power Board’s Twitter feed reported 14,000 customers without power, as well as six breakers being operated on and seven poles broken.

Just before 7:30 p.m., the feed continued to track storm outage coverage and said the utility was still working on just under 12,000 outages.

“Work is very labor intensive and time consuming with many poles/lines down,” the JCPB’s Twitter account reported.

In Kingsport, Isaac Webb of Appalachian Power Co. reported more than 6,875 households without power as of 7 p.m. in the Kingsport/Sullivan County service region, while more than 1,600 customers in Hawkins County had service knocked out due to the storm.

In Scott County, Va., 2,500 customers had their power interrupted, and Webb anticipated some locations would not get their service restored until Saturday at the earliest.

“A portion of our work and service crews were assisting other teams in Washington and Smyth County, Va., following storms earlier in the week. They are now en route back to Kingsport,” said Webb.

American Electric Power crews were trying to erect new power poles, string power connection lines and other associated chores to help 21,000 customers from Kingsport to Tazewell County get their lights back on, Webb noted. Appalachian Power is a division of AEP.

Officials with the USSSA World Series canceled play for the evening, and teams, parents and coaches were forced out of the stands and into hallways underneath J. Fred Johnson Stadium as the storm swept into Kingsport.

One automobile crash was reported on Interstate 81 due to the flood-like conditions, and traffic was snarled for nearly an hour.

Emergency personnel worked throughout the evening to clear tree limbs and other debris off numerous roadways.

Roberts said the region has a 20 percent chance of pop-up thunderstorm activity today, including isolated and scattered storms.

NET News Service contributed to this report.

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