Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 16, 2013

Storm Surge: Rain fells one huge tree, does little damage elsewhere

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — When Josephine Johnson, 51, heard the cracking sound outside her home in the 900 block of Washington early Monday, she had a really bad feeling.

In her mind, the pelting rain and wind combined with the barking of her outdoor pit bull and that cracking sound she was hearing couldn't be adding up to anything good.

Johnson's fears were justified when the huge oak tree literally split nearly in half from the weight of the rain. An unwieldily mass of tree and wildly curving branches slammed to the ground.

“Oh, honey – it went from 'cracking' to a huge 'boom,'” Johnson explained later Monday as she watched city crews try to move the tree from the road.  

The 4:30 a.m. impact did not injure anyone but it did litter the street and nearby yards with scads of branches and wood debris.

Although the storm created a lot of rain and wind and some minor damage, it appears the house on Washington suffered the worst of the local  impact, authorities said.

Neither Jacksonville Fire Department officials nor police officers reported any major damage or accidents caused by the storm.

City Manager Mo Raissi said crews went to Johnson's house to remove the tree from the road as soon as they were called.

“We had a pretty good rain last night and early this morning,” Raissi said. “Our city crews are going around and picking up all the fallen trees and debris this morning. We had about 3.5 inches of rain at Double Creek.”

Really, said Charles Hill, Oncor's regional customer operations manager, there weren't that many people affected by the storm in the long run.

“Right now we are showing about 500 customers out in East Texas,” Hill said  shortly before noon Monday. “About 350 of those are in the Tyler area, (which includes Jacksonville) and the rest are down in Lufkin and Nacogdo-ches.”

Hill added, “surprisingly, I have been monitoring this storm from Dallas and it initially looked heavier than what it turned out to be.”

The National Weather Service reported that the storm was part of scattered thunderstorms that continued into Monday evening. Some brought lightning as well as isolated wind gusts.

The more widespread of the storm activity was heading “west of a line from Lufkin and Tyler,” according to NWS reports.

Back at Johnson's home Monday morning city crews worked diligently to move the fallen half of tree from the block of cross street Monroe, on which it fell. (Monroe intersects Washington.)

Johnson, who “guesstimated” the tree could as old as 100 years, said she knew a portion of it had been weakening and she had planned to have the weakened portion trimmed.

But she said she was unprepared when her pit bull, Blue, started barking up a – pardon the expression – storm early Monday. Johnson had her 14-year-old granddaughter and 2-year-old grandson staying in her home and was extremely concerned for their safety.

Around town, some other  homes and businesses suffered quick blackouts from the storm that were almost immediately restored.

But at the Washington home, the collision knocked out all the lights in the owner's house except her bathroom and the children's rooms. Washington doesn't think anyone else in her  block was affected.

Johnson said it's a shame that it happened because she is very fond of that tree.

“I'm so thankful the tree fell the other way and not toward the house,” the home owner said. “But it's a shame that I now have to get the Old Girl cut down.”