Straight-line winds roared through Mansfield early Wednesday morning, toppling trees and fences and leaving thousands without electricity for most of the day.
The Mansfield school district cancelled classes for the day since several of the campuses were without electricity. The rooftops of portable buildings at Coble and Worley middle schools were also ripped off, said Donald Williams, assistant superintendent of communications and marketing.
“About 100 trees at various campuses and fences were also damaged,” Williams said. “We’re in the process of assessing and evaluating the cost.”
Students will not have to make up the missed day, Williams said, because “we are still good on meeting the number of hours required.”
Businesses throughout the city were also closed Wednesday due to a lack of electricity, from Walmart to Sprouts.
Tom Thumb, 980 U.S. 287, had an even bigger problem than its loss of electricity. Winds clocked at more than 80 mph shattered the store’s glass front doors.
Frozen food manager Mitch Wilson was stocking the food cases at 2:20 a.m. Wednesday when the wind hit.
“I was filling my display and I heard this big crash,” said Wilson, who was standing a few feet away from the doors. “I saw the glass coming in. (The second set of doors) opened and I saw all the displays being sucked inside. Then I ran.”
Oncor worked throughout the day to restore electricity, while city crews cleared downed trees from the streets and medians. Traffic signals were out at several intersections, including on the northbound U.S 287 access road and FM 157, where the light posts were twisted at least 45 degrees.
The city opened its lot at 24 N. Mitchell Road to allow residents to drop off trees and limbs on Wednesday, and will also have the lot open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Crews from Walnut Ridge Baptist Church and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) spent the rest of the week cutting up and hauling off fallen trees for residents throughout the community.
“The city called me about a lady on the corner,” said Susan Luttrell, who was working with Methodist churches from Mansfield, Ovilla, Corsicana and Grapevine. “When we finished up with her, I walked around the corner and I saw this.”
Luttrell pointed at a massive mulberry tree resting on what was left of Kenneth Crouch’s fence off Skylark Drive. The roots of the 35-foot tree jutted up in the air, wrapped around Crouch’s new air-conditioning unit and lifted it 45 degrees into the air, he said. Crouch cut the roots from under the unit, settled the air conditioner, turned it on and it worked, he said.
Crouch met Luttrell in his front yard, but he didn’t ask for help for himself but for another neighbor whose house had been hit by the mulberry and almost hit by a huge red oak.
“She has a hole in her roof from where the tree hit it,” said Crouch, who appreciated the volunteers’ help cutting up the huge tree. “I have a chainsaw, but I couldn’t haul it off because it was so large.”
Another of Crouch’s neighbors, Ronnie Stockemer, planted the red oak in his backyard 26 years ago and thought that it would outlive him - at least until Wednesday morning.
“I was getting ready to go to bed,” Stockemer said. “I watched the fence blow down. I ran upstairs and grabbed my wife and my dog. I looked outside and said ‘Where’s my oak tree?’ I couldn’t believe it went down.”
Stockemer, his wife and son began cutting up the huge red oak, but were having trouble lifting the solid tree when the UMCOR volunteers showed up to help.
“More power to them,” Stockemer said. “It’s a godsend.”