Heavy storms rumble through the Panhandle
Chris Ramirez and Josh Burton
Heavy thunderstorms rumbled through the Texas Panhandle this afternoon and early evening, prompting residents to seek shelter in restaurants and truck stops from hail and tornado-force winds.
Funnel clouds churned precariously over the Amarillo area just after 4 p.m. and pushed into Armstrong, Donley and Carson counties by nightfall.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or a tornado touching down.
Wind gusts, some as fast as 81 mph, pitched nickel to quarter size hail into car windows and buildings and snapped tree branches all over northeast Amarillo.
Hangar No. 10 at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport was leveled in the storm, its roof and three walls stripped down by wind.
As many as 1,500 customers in "far northeast Amarillo," near state Highway 136 and Loop 335, were without power, Xcel Energy spokesman Wes Reeves said. Power was restored for most of them by 6:30 p.m.
Electric poles were reported down near Farmers Avenue and Eastern Street, as well as near the William P. Clements Jr. Unit.
Jail officials had to run the center on generator power.
Several flights into and out of the airport were grounded. At least two were diverted to Lubbock temporarily until the storm moved out of the area.
About 40 people took cover inside the Flying J Travel Plaza, on Interstate 40 East, not far from the airport. Customers and truckers huddled in hallways as winds kicked up outside.
"We're getting slammed," said Joe Kindrick, a manager for the truck stop.
In Claude, large, fist-sized hail busted the windshield of a vehicle on Farm-to-Market 1151 and County Road 9. Officials there opened the basement of the Armstrong County Courthouse for truck drivers, residents and vacationers to seek shelter from the storm.
Randy Wright did the same at his business, the Claude Pharmacy on the downtown square.
"They've been sounding the alarms," he said. "It's real turquoise."
The clouds made Tracy Gillis' nervous.
A customer ran into the Crazy Little Cafe, the Claude eatery Gillis has owned the last two years, warning a funnel cloud was forming overhead. Tornado sirens blared as the descending funnel moved southward.
She couldn't help but fear a repeat of last year when two storms in three weeks ripped off awnings and parts of the business' roof.
"I was thinking 'Lord, please not again,'" she said.
Staff writers Karen Smith Welch, Matthew Hutchison, David Pittman, Dan Packard and Brenda Bernet contributed to this report.
The Emergency Operations Center was activated during Thursday's severe storms to address damage and other issues.
Xcel Energy spokesman Wes Reeves reported an estimated 1,500 customers experienced power outages during the storms.
Xcel reported the following electrical line issues:
One power pole down on Whitaker Road a half-mile north of State Highway 136.
Damaged electrical lines at Southeast 10th Avenue and Tudor Street.
Lines down at East Farmers Avenue and South Eastern Street.
Lines down at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice William P. Clements Jr. Unit, 9601 Spur 591.
Lines down on Mirror Street between 15th and 24th avenues.
Low-hanging power lines at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.
Numerous residential power outages in east Amarillo.
Other reported damage in the Amarillo:
Tree damage and debris along Airport Boulevard.
Roof damage to homes, tree damage and an overturned mobile home near The intersection of Amarillo Boulevard and Lakeside Drive.
A hangar destroyed by high winds at the airport.
Sources: Xcel Energy, City of Amarillo