As Altus starts a new work week today, most residents have had their power restored, but a few are still in the dark. A strong storm packing 90 mph winds left the entire city without electricity starting at around 8 p.m. Thursday. Dozens of utility poles were snapped, tree limbs fell on lines and transformers blew from poles.
Although several eyewitnesses said they saw tornadoes, Local Emergency Management research says the cause of the storm appears to be a "downburst." Also known as microbursts, downbursts are defined as powerful downdrafts associated with thunderstorms.
City crews have been working non-stop since the storm passed to repair the damage. Some areas of town had their power back as early as 4 a.m. Friday morning, 70 percent of town had power by Saturday morning, and the majority had power back on Sunday. However, crews were working today to restore power to about 10 percent of residents still without electricity. Altus Air Force Base’s power was completely restored around 8 p.m. Sunday.
Altus still has damage to its distribution system from storm damage from last Thursday night. AEP has assisted OMPA in repairing a downed transmission line and now all substations are operational. Restoration on distribution circuits out of the substations has been under way since Friday.
According to Altus Emergency Management’s Loyd Colston, the remaining powerless citizens are encouraged to be patient as electric service is returned to them.
Altus is also holding their breaths today as the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Jackson County. More strong winds could hinder repairs or cause more damage. The Altus Emergency Operations Center is monitoring weather, including lightning to support the electrical department and emergency workers.
Citizens in Altus are also asked to conserve power. As new lines are energized, the new load places a strain on the rest of the system. Homeowners without power are requested to turn off their thermostats and electric appliances prior to power being restored.
The Salvation Army feeding crew who had set up at the Altus Community Center has now returned to their headquarters in Lawton.
Altus Fire Department responded to a Hazardous Materials call Sunday. The product release was determined to have been caused during the wind storm but was not discovered until today. Cost for this event will be added to th storm total.
The City has submitted the disaster declaration to the State an waits patiently for a positive response from the State and Federal partners.
City officials remind that power cannot be restored to service that is damaged. Citizens are responsible for securing the services of a license electrician for repairs on private property.
In Altus, Altus Power crews were joined by workers from other municipally-owned electrical systems in the state. Outside of town, Southwest Rural Electric linemen got aid from other rural electrical cooperatives.
Preliminary damage estimates reveal that 179 homes were damaged in the storm. Two were destroyed, five have major damage, 43 received minor damage, and 129 were “affected.”