Wednesday night’s storm has strained all Kerr County, Kerrville city agencies and utilities as damage to the community was assessed and repaired on Thursday.
Across Kerrville, hundreds of people were without power as Kerrville Public Utility Board crews worked to restore electricity. In other places, water was knocked out, and Atmos Energy was working to repair gas lines that were damaged when the wind uprooted trees.
Kerrville City Manager Mark McDaniel described the damage to city-owned property and utilities as “major,” and the city still didn’t know the extent of the damage.
“We had some significant damage to our water treatment plant,” McDaniel said. “We’ve got our risk management team over there assessing it for insurance and all of that.”
As the storm moved into the county on Wednesday night it packed heavy winds, damaging hail and non-stop lightning strikes, which did plenty to knock out power and limit cell phone connectivity.
“It was a struggle,” McDaniel said of keeping the city’s wastewater treatment operational during the storm. “We had a lot of our lift stations (sewer) knocked, probably due to lightning, which means they weren’t pumping and we had to get out there and manually pump sewage.”
After strong storms did damage earlier in the week, Wednesday’s proved to be far more threatening and for some businesses there was plenty of damage to cleanup. In downtown, Pax Coffee suffered damage to the ceiling that led to water damage inside the Earl Garrett Street store. The cleanup forced the business to close on a day when many people were without power and water — and searching for coffee.
There was no cost estimate to the damage — that may take a few days. It’s certainly not a good bit of news for the city and county, which are both looking at difficult operational budget thanks to a decrease in revenues from the coronavirus pandemic.
While the National Weather Service only lists the strongest gust of wind at 36 MPH, residents said it’s most likely a small tornado moved through the town, especially near Walmart and Methodist Encampment Road. The Weather Service said it will be investigating if a tornado moved through parts of Kerrville.
The Weather Service measures rainfall at Kerrville/Kerr County Airport and those measurements can vary wildly from other parts of the community. As an example, the Weather Service measured less than 1 inch of rain on Wednesday.
Up on the Rim Rock Road, the damage was extensive with numerous downed trees and broken limbs from the wind. Other trees were seen with lightning strike damage. However, it was the hail in the area south of Kerrville that proved to be a major challenge, with some residents seeing hail drifts as deep as 8 inches. The temperature change also led to thick fog in some area, making visibility difficult and driving treacherous.
The roads also proved to be a mess with flooding, debris flows and broken stop lights, which TxDot crews were still working to fix into Thursday afternoon. At one point Wednesday, more than 5,000 customers had lost power and KPUB crews worked overnight, along with the assistance of contracted tree trimming crews. By Thursday morning, other regional utilities were providing mutual-aid assistance to help restore power to the remaining pockets that were without service.