published Monday, February 28th, 2011

Storm damage "some of worst" in 30 years, EPB says

Staff photo by Dan Henry - The Chattanooga Times Free Press. February 28, 2011.  Strong winds tore a brick wall down on a building being renovated at the intersection of Main St and Mitchell Ave on Monday.
Staff photo by Dan Henry - The Chattanooga Times Free Press. February 28, 2011. Strong winds tore a brick wall down on a building being renovated at the intersection of Main St and Mitchell Ave on Monday.
  • photo
    Strong winds destroyed several trees Monday in north Chattanooga. Staff photo by Angela Lewis

A swirling afternoon thunderstorm pounded much of the Chattanooga area, with strong winds wreaking havoc on homes and power lines.

EPB officials said as of 5:30 p.m. there were 26,000 customers without power.

Lacie Newton, with EPB's corporate communications, said the figure could rise as more people return home from work. She said all EPB crews and others called in from other areas are working as quicky as possible to restore power.

"While we are still accessing the overall impact, we can say that today’s storm damage to the electric system is some of the worst we’ve seen in 30 years," Newton said in a news release. " We expect the amount of damage will affect our restoration process, including how quickly we can get customers back on. From what we know now, damage from today’s storm may result in a power restoration effort that could take several days."

In Red Bank uprooted trees have blocked residents inside their own homes, according to City Manager Chris Dorsey.

Dorsey also said the power’s out at City Hall, forcing employees to handle city business a bit more creatively.

“Johnny Houston’s holding court by flashlight,” Dorsey said, referring to Red Bank’s city judge.

Public works crews are helping residents with difficult situations, he said.

Officials with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., said the storm that is producing 60-70 mph winds, torrential rain and possible hail is moving quickly from west to east.

“There’s definitely a good amount of wind, but hopefully it’s not a tornado,” said George Mathews, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Other areas have been as hard hit as Red Bank. High winds knocked out power, downed power lines, stripped roofs from homes, tore trees from their roots and damaged buildings, including the Levin Brothers building on Main Street at the corner of Mitchell Avenue. A utility pole with three transformers also went down in the storm.

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    Power lines are down and burning as traffic passes on Barton Ave. Monday afternoon. Staff Photo by Tim Barber.

A stop light is reportedly down in the road at Graysville and East Brainerd roads. Residents are reporting several trees down in East Hamilton and Morris Hill areas.

Others reported that signs were flying along the Olgiati Bridge and there was one report of a large tree downed near the Brabson House in downtown Chattanooga.

Some residents have reported seeing a twister in North Hamilton County.

Emergency management workers say the storm tore the roof off a barn near Black Fox Elementary School, and electrical wires were reported down and live across a road between the school and APD 40.

A tornado warning is in effect for Hamilton and Bradley counties, but the threat should be gone within a few hours.

EPB reported power outages in:

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    Paula Gregory talks on the phone from her office at Thompson Risk Management, LLC shortly after a storm toppled a billboard in the 300 block of Cherokee Blvd. Monday afternoon. Staff Photo by Tim Barber

-NickajackHaletown

-Shallowford-Tyner

-Hixson-Northgate

-Red Bank-Moccasin

-Soddy Daisy

-Brainerd

-North Chattanooga

-Ooltewah-Collegedale

-Signal Mountain

For more updates on the weather, check in with the Times Free Press.

Video: Weather damage
The old Levin Brothers building on the corner of Mitchell and Main collapsed during an afternoon thunderstorm Monday that pounded much of the Chattanooga area.
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