Many Konawa residents were busy Wednesday, Thursday and Friday cleaning up damage which occurred when a storm system moved through Wednesday during the pre-dawn hours.
A long swath of damage was visible across the north side of town, from state Highway 9A east to East Main Street.
Konawa resident Ronnie Hendrix, along with friends Kaci Kirkwood and Bernice Coffey, spent most of the day Thursday cutting up and disposing of dozens of tree branches — most of them quite large.
His next-door neighbor in the northeast portion of town also had several trees downed by the storm.
Hendrix was asleep when he awoke to the storms at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. He checked the weather, and, after seeing it was about an average thunderstorm for the area, tried to go back to sleep. However, he couldn’t get back to sleep as he heard the wind getting stronger.
“I think it was around four o’clock, the wind was really blowing,” Hendrix said. “I got up again and looked outside and everything was just whipped up. The trees were just bending in every direction. Within just a few minutes, it started to roar like you wouldn’t believe. Just a loud, heavy roar.”
Although the National Weather Service believes — based on radar and damage reports — that it was straight-line winds, many residents believe it was something a little more.
Hendrix said whatever came through created a vacuum effect, pulling insulation from the attic through the fresh air intake pipes in the HVAC/water heater closet of his home.
“It sucked the insulation from the attic, through the doors (of the closet), into the hallway, into my end bedroom and into my utility room,” Hendrix said. “That’s when it gave me a clue that it wasn’t a straight wind that was doing this.”
Hendrix said he is familiar with tornadoes and straight-line winds, and believes it was a tornado, but maybe one that didn’t quite reach the ground.
“I personally think it was a tornado,” Hendrix said. “I don’t think it came down to ground level. I think it was 80 or 100 feet up. But even then, the vacuum they create, the winds they create are still really rough. They do a lot of damage.”
Konawa Fire Chief Tim Coffey said there may have been some upper level rotation.
“I think the squall line came through, I think we had a microburst and straight-line winds was initially what it was,” Coffey said, “but some of the newscasters said there was possibly some upper level rotation. I don’t personally think we had a touchdown on the ground. I do believe we had some potential upper level rotation in regards to as much damage as we had, and it was so focused. We had a lot of limb damage in other parts of town, but not as severe as we did in that one six-block stretch.”
During the storm, the roof above Hendrix’s porch was lifted. The posts — which were anchored to the roof and the concrete porch — were offset afterward.
Most of the trees which lined his driveway were either knocked down or had branches broken off which downed the electric lines running along the drive. A transformer also blew up.
“They had put in a new transformer, new lines and everything,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix had high praise for Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) workers and said his electricity was back on around 9 p.m. Wednesday.
“This crew that worked out here really put themselves out,” he said. “They really did. They took care of business. I appreciate that.”
Most of Hendrix’s pecan trees either had major damage, or were knocked down entirely, but his home only suffered minor damage. He is thankful for that, and thankful that there were no injuries reported from the storm.
“We were pretty fortunate that nobody got hurt,” he said.
By far the worst damage occurred to homes on Hillside Drive, Meadow Lane and northern North Division Street. Several homes had large trees crash down upon them. Many homes which escaped tree damage had shingles ripped off the roofs.
Chief Coffey said they were called out initially for reports of downed power lines. While he was on his way to the fire station, central dispatch reported there was roof damage and trees down on the north side of town.
“Our initial units responded to determine what was going on with the power lines down,” Coffey said. “In route to the secondary (call) of houses damaged and trees down, police advised that they were having a hard time accessing the area due to downed trees blocking the roads.”
Coffey said he had to walk around the downed trees to get to the homes where damage had occurred.
“I at that point started going door-to-door asking if everybody was alright,” he said. “Then we worked towards getting OG&E and additional manpower en route to assist with getting the streets opened back up.”
Coffey said he believes there were five houses which had fallen trees on them.
“We actually assisted a couple of people with getting trees off,” Coffey said. “One house they actually couldn’t get out the front door and another house we were able to get their front door open enough, because she couldn’t get either the front door or the back door open.”
He said residents in other houses which had fallen trees on them didn’t need firefighters’ assistance.
“They were able to get out,” Coffey said. “But trees had fallen on the eves of the houses and that sort of thing.”
Coffey said a couple of house had trees land on them and large limbs were driven through the roofs and into the interiors.
“The Konawa Community Center, it stripped all the metal roofing off of it,” Coffey said. “The old county shop, just south of the community center, it stripped all the tin off of one of the buildings there, and it just tore up every tree in the park.”
Coffey said there were seven or eight power poles that snapped and numerous power lines which fell. He said one power line fell across a vacant house and onto a metal ventilation pipe, causing a smoldering fire. After OG&E workers disconnected electricity to the line, firefighters went in and doused the fire.
Many residents and workers continue to work in sweltering conditions caused by high heat and humidity to repair damage.