Awfully lucky. Just blessed.
Those were the assessments of James Cook, emergency management coordinator for Brownwood, and Ken Thomas, Early city administrator, respectively, in the aftermath of Wednesday afternoon’s thunderstorm outbreak.
The area was spared widespread property damage despite high winds, rain and hail, and no injuries were reported, officials said. The storm toppled trees and left branches scattered through streets and yards, and damaged the roofs and walls of some structures, officials said.
Cook said officials now believe there were no tornado touchdowns in Brown County, although there were at least three funnel clouds sighted.
“We missed the bullet this time,” Cook said. “We kind of got grazed by it.”
What was initially believed to be a tornado touchdown at Highway 279 and County Road 135 proved to be straight-line winds that damaged a utility trailer and a storage shed, Cook said.
The American Red Cross put a “large” family in a motel after a tree fell onto a portion of their home’s roof on Durham in south Brownwood, said Minessa Mesic, executive director of the agency’s Pecan Valley Chapter.
Cook said he and National Weather Service meteorologist Buddy McIntyre toured the area Thursday. McIntyre told the Bulletin Wednesday afternoon that a tornado had touched down, but Cook said McIntyre agreed the damage was caused by straight-line winds after seeing damage.
Winds were reported at 58 mph at the Brownwood airport, 60 mph in Brookesmith and 65 mph in Winchell, the National Weather Service said.
Damaged structures included a youth fair barn, where a wall was pushed inward, and the Wayside Apartments, where a wall of bricks was stripped away.
Cook said some industries in the Camp Bowie area sustained damage to roofs and roll-up doors.
Cook initiated the CodeRED emergency warning system, and Early officials used the system for the first time Wednesday. The Early City Council recently approved using CodeRED for the city.
Early had “nothing severe” in damage, Thomas said. “There’s a lot of limbs on the ground. As far as damage to buildings, I’m not aware of any.
“ … We were just blessed. It could’ve been a whole lot worse.”
Thomas said people at the Early City Hall saw a funnel cloud that appeared to be over the Zephyr area. “You just hope it doesn’t come on down and destroy anybody’s property,” Thomas said.
The storm did cause plenty of anxiety and taxed emergency response officials. A woman wrote in an email to the Bulletin that she was hid, frightened, in a closet.
Scanners buzzed with dispatches of trees being knocked over or hit by lightning, downed power lines and blown transformers. Several residents said they heard roaring, similar to jet planes, in the clouds.