High winds Monday contributed to widespread damage throughout the Killeen area, with multiple power outages persisting through Tuesday.
Despite gusty winds clocking in as strong as 54 mph Monday, no injuries related to the winds were reported.
The worst damage resulted from fires. In Killeen, fire destroyed a building Monday night at the Stone Hill apartment complex, in the 500 block of West Central Texas Expressway.
Fire destroyed a vacant apartment building in Copperas Cove as well.
Killeen investigators determined the fire began when a cooking pan was left unattended on a lit stove burner. They ruled the cause of the fire accidental, but the strong winds didn’t help.
“We tried to make an attack on it to put the fire out, but it was not very long after that that we realized the wind had accelerated the fire and it burned into the upper floors and into the attic,” said Killeen Fire Department Deputy Chief Bryan Brank.
Several residents lost everything.
“I was speechless, and my main concern was to make sure everybody else got out,” said resident Frank Doss, 39.
He said he had just returned home from work to find the place he once called home for the past four months was gone. “When I got there, it was all engulfed in flames.”
Fire officials declared the building a total loss, police spokeswoman Carroll Smith said.
A resident who did not provide his name said the fire began at the back of the building. Firefighters acted to extinguish the blaze, but winds prevented them from making any headway.
After about two hours, the roof caved in, shooting flames high into the air. Firefighters evacuated two adjacent buildings as a precaution, though the buildings sustained no visible damage.
The winds also caused numerous power outages. Many trees snapped throughout the area, falling into electrical lines.
The Killeen Mall and portions of north Killeen lost power temporarily Monday evening, Smith said. Those outages were repaired relatively quickly.
Eight traffic signals in Killeen lost power for at least part of the day, requiring police to direct traffic and creating minor delays, city spokeswoman Danielle Durbin said.
By 10 p.m. Monday, more than 100 homes throughout Killeen were without power. By 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, nearly all reported outages were repaired, according to damage reports from Oncor.
Smith said police did receive numerous reports of fences being blown down and windows shattered by flying debris. She even heard of a few sheds being blown down by wind gusts.
The weather conditions also led to the cancellation of several flights at Killeen/Fort Hood Regional Airport. Two planes unable to make it to Killeen on Monday night resulted in the cancellation of two flights Tuesday,
“We should be good to go now,” Durbin said.
In Harker Heights and Copperas Cove, city workers removed trees that were thrown across roadways. Harker Heights Public Works Director Mark Hyde said staff removed a tree that had fallen across a residential street in south Harker Heights by cutting it into several small pieces with chain saws.
Weather conditions calmed considerably Tuesday as the low pressure system that caused the gusts moved to the St. Louis, Mo., area, National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said.
Meteorologists expect winds to pick up today as a weak cold front moves through the area. However, gusts will be far weaker than on Monday, topping out at about 20 mph, Cavanaugh said.
Herald correspondent Nick Delgado contributed to this report.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553