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More than 100,000 households and businesses in East Texas are still without power amid a heat wave after severe storms hit the region early Friday morning.
An Enhanced Fujita-1 tornado measuring a half-mile wide caused severe damage to homes in Panola County in East Texas on Friday before moving to northwest Louisiana. The tornado had winds up to 110 mph with a 7.78-mile path length, according to estimates from the National Weather Service.
Some additional severe storms swept through East Texas over the weekend with lightning, wind damage and hail.
The tornado and subsequent storms caused major damage to the power grid provider’s transmission system, a backbone of the energy delivery network. Transmission lines, which deliver power from power plants, are out of service due to tree damage. Utility poles and distribution wires are also down.
Of the 110,000 Texas households and businesses without power, the majority were customers of grid provider Southwestern Electric Power Co., according to PowerOutage.us. Southwestern Electric Power Co. is independent of Texas’ main electric grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. East Texas, the upper Panhandle and El Paso are on separate power grids because of their remoteness and the history of utility service territories.
More than 160,000 of their customers in East Texas and Louisiana remain without power as of 4 p.m. Sunday. Some Texans may have to wait for full restoration until June 23 — a week after losing power, the provider said.
Residents are left without air conditioning amid extreme heat and humidity. Many counties in the region were under a heat warning, which means the heat index was expected to be over 105 degrees for at least two days.
A disaster declaration issued by Gov. Greg Abbott will allow seven counties in the region to use state resources to respond to the storm. The counties are Ochiltree, Cass, Franklin, Harrison, Marion, Upshur, and Wood. On Monday, Abbott expanded the disaster declaration to include more counties in northeastern Texas, including Camp, Gregg, Hopkins, Panola, Smith, and Titus counties. Later in the week on Wednesday, the governor added Morris and Shelby counties to the growing list of affected areas in need of help restoring power and recovering from the storms' impacts.
Weeks into summer break, Longview residents filled the cafeteria and gymnasium at Forest Park Middle School to charge their cellphones, get some water and cool off.
In Kilgore, the First Baptist Church of Danville opened its doors as a cooling station Saturday. But by Sunday morning, the church had also lost power.
Still, Freeman Pierce, a pastor at the church, said they’re planning to distribute sandwiches this evening. They found a power source for one woman who has an oxygen concentrator that needs to be hooked up to electricity.
“We’re not going to leave anybody out there that wants the help and needs the help,” Pierce said.
Reporter William Melhado contributed to this story.
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