HIGH WIND: Thayer resident Rosie Freeman stands beside what used to be the master bedroom in her home at 301 Spruce Street in Thayer. Freeman said she was home when the storm hit but she suffered no injuries. More storm related pictures are on page 4.
OREGON COUNTY -- Oregon County and Fulton County experienced firsthand the wrath of 60 to 80 mph straight-line winds last Friday evening.
The National Weather Service in Springfield issued the first severe thunderstorm watches and warnings shortly after 4 p.m. July 21.
Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative media relations representative Myles Smith said 8,000 Howell-Oregon members were without electricity due to the storm
He said the outages were reported in a wide area from west of Dora and Caulfield, south of West Plains to the state line, and east to Thayer and Myrtle. Smith said the largest number of outages were concentrated in rural Koshkonong and Thayer. He said he did not know the exact number of outages in Oregon County.
Smith said crews began working immediately after the storm hit and continued working until all Howell-Oregon Electric members had power restored around 1 p.m. Sunday.
Smith said the storm was similar to the storm that hit St. Louis last week leaving 500,000 patrons without electricity.
The residents of the city of Thayer seemed to have taken the brunt of the wind's fury.
Thayer Mayor Allen Deckard said at one point just after the storm hit Thayer around 5:15 p.m. the city was completely without power. He said approximately 1,000 city residents are serviced by the city of Thayer's Electrical Department. He said most residents had electricity restored by Saturday afternoon, but 15 to 20 residents were still waiting for power Monday.
"Our crews worked until they were just exhausted Sunday," Deckard said. He said Gary Barton's electrical crew was assisted by the city of West Plains Electrical Department. Barton was not available for comment Monday due to still trying to restore electricity in the city.
"I have never seen trees whipped around like they were here last Friday evening. This is the worst Thayer has ever been hit, even worse than the ice storm that happened several years ago," the mayor said.
He said the majority of the damage occurred when the high winds toppled large trees that fell into power lines and also twisted poles that downed power lines.
The mayor, who was without electricity himself, said the rain, high winds and severe lightning lasted approximately 30 minutes. He said the rain gauge at his house showed 1 1/2 inches of rain, but he said he was sure that was not an accurate measurement due to the high, straight-line winds.
"Gary and his crew and all the city employees that helped restore electricity and are now working with the cleanup of limbs, trees and other debris did a great job. I'm sure the residents of the city appreciate the efforts they made," the mayor said.
He said due to the electricity outages in the city he has ordered a boil order. "Our city wells almost ran dry because we had no electricity to work the pumps at the wells," Deckard said.
He said all water used in the city for drinking or cooking should be boiled three minutes. "A water sample will be run over to the state Health Department in Poplar Bluff on Tuesday to see if our water is back up to state standards," he said.
Entergy provides electricity to the 850 residents in the city of Mammoth Spring.
Entergy Service Manager Leslie Frensley said all 850 residents in the city were without electricity shortly after 5:30 p.m. Friday.
"The city of Mammoth Spring was pretty well torn up after the high winds came through last Friday," Frensley said.
He said besides the local crews working to restore power, 30 additional Entergy crew members from Forest City, Searcy and Mountain View were brought in to help restore power.
Frensley said by mid-morning Saturday, 50 percent of the city of Mammoth Spring had power restored.
By 11 p.m. Saturday most all Mammoth Spring's residents had electricity.
Frensley said the damage in the city was attributed to high winds that broke utility poles, downed power lines and uprooted trees which fell on wires and poles.
"What we had Friday evening was a full force storm," said North Arkansas Electric (NAEC) Member Service Representative Jerry Estes. He said there were outages systemwide.
NAEC serves residents in rural Mammoth Spring, down Highway 63 nearly to Hardy and Highway 9 west to Fryatt, Camp and Salem. Estes said 600 Fulton County residents were without power July 21.
"All NAEC crew members started working around 6 p.m. Friday. We had a couple of good hours of daylight which allowed the crews to get a lot accomplished before dark. Of course, as night fell, our work slowed down," he said.
Estes said when working in a situation like the crews experienced last Friday, safety of the workers is always the main concern of the coop and darkness often hampers how quickly power can be restored.
He said by 9 a.m. Saturday the majority of the rural NAEC customers located close to the city of Mammoth Spring had electricity.
The storm hit the Henderson area in Baxter County hard, traveled toward Sturkie and Moko before slamming into rural Mammoth Spring.
"We appreciate the patience of the NAEC members," Estes said.