Winds wreak havoc
A norther that blew in early on Dec. 24 carried winds with gusts recorded up to 52 mph in Port Aransas, according to the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi.
At the Sandpiper condominium, portions of the brick veneer fell from the north and south sides of the 12-story structure, said Charles Crawford, president of CCMS, which manages Sandpiper, along with about 10 other properties on Mustang Island.
Some of the bricks fell from the 10th story, but most tumbled down from the 11th and 12th stories. Some fell on an electrical transformer, knocking out power to about half of the building.
No one was injured, Crawford said, but the bricks destroyed three employees’ cars parked next to the building.
Engineers have examined the building and confirmed that the basic structure, made of poured concrete, remained “very sound,” Crawford said.
CCMS asked short-term visitors to relocate to other CCMS properties on Mustang Island so they could have electrical service and so the management service could determine the severity of the problem at Sandpiper, Crawford said.
Some 12 parties of folks relocated, said Jim Triplett, managing director at CCMS.
The bricks fell from one side at about noon and from the other about 2 p.m. Electricity was restored by 11 p.m.
The condominium never was closed for business, but officials limited traffic to owners only until Christmas Day, when normal operations resumed, Triplett said.
Crawford said work to repair the veneer will begin as soon as next week, depending on the weather. The repairs could last a couple of months, but it could be wrapped up much sooner, Triplett said.
By late on the afternoon of Dec. 24, the hard wind had knocked out electricity to about 45,000 homes and businesses in the Coastal Bend, according to Frank Espinosa, a spokesman for AEP Texas, the electric utility. That included “several hundred” buildings in Port Aransas, he said.
The outages were composed mostly of numerous but isolated incidents of three limbs touching power lines and wind whipping power lines back and forth, causing no damage to electrical equipment, but tripping it nonetheless, Espinosa said. Downed lines and fallen power poles also caused outages, he said.
Most people’s power was back on by Christmas Day, Espinosa said.
Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs said his department called in extra officers to patrol during the outages.
During a 24-hour period beginning at 1 a.m. Dec. 24, the police department responded to eight alarm calls that turned out to be false and were blamed on heavy winds, according to police records. Constable’s deputies responded to three such calls the same day.
At the Family Center IGA, the loss of electricity prompted workers to reluctantly close the store for hours on a day when shoppers were busily trying to buy food and drinks for Chrismas meals, said Jim Magee, the store’s co-owner. The store was closed for safety reasons, to keep customers from bumping into things or falling in the dark, Magee said.
For the 20 to 25 customers who were in the store at the time of the outage, employees put the shoppers’ names on notes, posted them on their shopping carts full of groceries and held the merchandise in place until the customers could come back later, when the power was back on, Magee said. Perishables were put in coolers.
“We told them, ‘As soon as we know what’s going on, please come back, and we’ll hold this for you until then,’ Magee said. “And they all did come back.”
Magee said the shop fired up two small generators, but they weren’t enough to power the entire building.