Although the twister was visually verified by onlookers in Hamilton, Bradley, McMinn and Monroe counties, its confirmation by the National Weather Service is not expected until Monday at the earliest.
At the height of the storm, some 2,140 Cleveland Utilities customers lost electric power. The outages were concentrated in the Harrison Pike, Freewill Road, Candies Lane, Rolling Hills, Burlington Heights, Georgetown Road and North Lee Highway areas, according to Ken Webb, assistant general manager and chief financial officer.
“Additionally, some other areas had isolated issues,” Webb told the Cleveland Daily Banner on Saturday afternoon.
By 7:30 a.m. Saturday, CU crews had returned full power to all customers with the exception of four. Their service was expected to be restored by the end of the day, Webb explained. In some cases, homes serviced by CU may have suffered damage severe enough to prevent crews from returning their electrical power.
According to updates from the Bradley County Emergency Operations Center midday Saturday, six homes in Bradley County were destroyed, 13 suffered major damage and 20 had moderate damage. At last report, EMA estimated total local damage at $2.1 million.
“Work is continuing today on restoring power to the [final four] homes,” Webb reported Saturday. Just like with the destruction 10 months ago caused by five tornadoes in the Cleveland Utilities service area, Webb said crews have worked feverishly to complete the restoration process.
“We appreciate the patience of our customers in getting the outages restored and the dedication of our crews for the work they have performed,” Webb stressed.
Volunteer Energy Cooperative crews faced an even more daunting task with 26,000 customers who lost power Friday. Their task was compounded because seven VEC substations went down, according to Rody Blevins, president and CEO.
As of midmorning Saturday, some 3,837 customers were still without power, but these numbers were expected to dwindle as crews worked through the day and into the night.
“As of Saturday morning, all substations [were] back online and crews were able to restore power to more than 22,000 customers overnight Friday,” Blevins said.
In Hamilton County, the VEC electric grid suffered “extremely severe” damage in the Ooltewah and Snow Hill areas. VEC’s service area in southern Bradley County took a major hit, especially in the Dalton Pike and Blue Springs areas, he added.
At the peak of the storm, some 8,000 VEC customers in Bradley County had lost their power. By early Saturday afternoon, some 600 to 800 locally were still without power.
Blevins said the storm destroyed about 30 utility poles. Some were broken. Others were uprooted and had to be reset. Blevins said full power restoration to all affected homes is not expected until Monday.
“VEC customers, whose homes have been damaged to the extent that it is impossible to restore power safely, will have to complete repairs before electric service can be resumed,” Blevins said in a VEC press release Saturday morning.
He added, “VEC crews from across [our] 17-county area have converged on the scene to assist in repair efforts and they, along with all available contract crews, will continue working around the clock until all VEC customers are back online.”
A statement released Friday night by the Electric Power Board confirmed approximately 2,345 homes and businesses in EPB’s service area were without power. EPB services a 600-square-mile grid.
“EPB’s Smart Grid, a second-generation electric power system, either automatically restored power or rerouted power (avoiding an outage) to 3,148 homes and businesses [Friday night],” according to EPB spokesperson Deborah Dwyer.
Cleveland Utilities, VEC and EPB spokespersons cautioned area residents to stay away from any downed power lines that have not as yet been repaired.