Severe weather moving through the South Texas area hit Kingsville hard last Thursday as a downburst of straight line winds in excess of 80 miles per hour tore through the city, downing trees and power lines and damaging property.
According to the National Weather Service Corpus Christi, severe thunderstorms entered Kingsville between 7 and 8 p.m. last Thursday. Estimated peak winds during the storm were measured at 80 to 90 mph, along with about 1.5 inches of rain and hail approximately one inch in diameter.
The damage path covered about nine miles, resulting in widespread damage from northwest Kingsville to just southeast of the city.
NWS Corpus Christi meteorologist Tyler Castillo said most of the damage occurred along Corral Street near the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus. While many Kingsville residents speculated that the resulting damage was the result of a tornado, Castillo said the cause was from straight line winds.
“But the damage can be the same between the two,” he said. “The damage was all in one direction, which identifies a straight line wind event. With a tornado, you’d have debris laying in all directions, but it’s similar in magnitude.”
Castillo said downbursts of straight line winds are fairly common in Texas, typically in the western part of the state, from early April to mid-June.
“It’s just unfortunate that it hit in such a highly populated area,” he said.
While no fatalities or severe injuries were reported during the storm, the strong winds resulted in property damage throughout the city and resulted in days-long power outages for many Kingsville residents.
According to information released by AEP Texas, at its peak an estimated 9,600 residents lost electricity during the storm, which knocked down more than 20 utility poles and at least 13,200 feet of power lines, broke more than 40 cross arms and damaged 20 transformers.
Approximately 330 service technicians, assessors, tree trimmers and support staff worked through Thursday night and the weekend to restore power to the Kingsville area.
AEP Texas initially projected to have power restored to at least 95 percent of area residents by noon Friday. That projection was later revised, however, to 8 p.m. Saturday as the extent of the damage became apparent.
“Mud, tree branches entangled with power lines or blocking access have made the restoration process extremely challenging,” Curtis Proske, AEP Texas Manager of Distribution System, said in a press release.
“Much of the damage occurred in alleys and other areas where we can’t use our bucket trucks to make repairs. Often, our crews have to move by foot from one repair to the next.”
Approximately 5,000 area residents were still without power by 6 p.m. Friday, which was reduced to about 2,700 residents by 10:30 a.m. Saturday. AEP Texas crews reached 95 percent of electricity service restored at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, with 412 area residents still without power at that time.
In the storm’s aftermath, the City of Kingsville and Kleberg County focused on recovery and cleanup efforts throughout the city.
Three brush drop-off locations were set up around the city on Friday and Saturday for residents who needed to dispose of tree limbs and other debris from their properties. In addition, public works crews from the City of Corpus Christi assisted with brush pickup, with an estimated 926 tons of brush collected by Monday afternoon.
With heat indices above 110 degrees and many residents still without power going into the weekend, the Kleberg County Human Services Center at 1109 E. Santa Gertrudis Ave. was set up as a “chill zone” for elderly residents.
The site provided food, entertainment, air conditioning and a cot to sleep on during the night for elderly residents who needed relief from the hot weather until electricity was restored.
On Friday, Kingsville Mayor Sam Fugate and Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid signed local disaster declarations, along with letters to Texas Governor Gregg Abbott to declare a state of emergency for Kingsville and Kleberg County.
The local disaster declarations activate the City of Kingsville’s Emergency Management Plan for up to seven days. Should Gov. Abbott declare a state of emergency for Kingsville and Kleberg County, it would allow FEMA to respond to public assistance requests that could offset costs associated with storm recovery.
For those looking to help with recovery efforts, the Kingsville Police Department is accepting donations of blankets, toiletries and canned food that will be distributed by the Kleberg County Human Services Department to residents in need.
Items can be dropped off in the lobby of the police department, located at 1700 E. King Ave. For more information, contact Kristen Gonzalez at (361) 595-8845.
Cleanup and recovery efforts will continue throughout the week to clear Kingsville of the remaining debris and damage in the storm’s aftermath. Castillo said while there is still a chance for more stormy weather in the near future, another event similar to Thursday’s storm would be “uncommon.”
“We can’t rule anything out, but it doesn’t look like anything’s going to be near that magnitude,” he said.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.