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CPS Energy estimated that just under 6,000 lightning strikes hit in its service area on Sunday night, which counts as “a significant event,” said Rudy Garza, chief customer engagement officer.
After Sunday night’s thunderstorms, CPS Energy crews worked through the night to repair outages throughout the Bexar County area. At the storm’s peak, Garza said more than 63,000 customers were affected.
“What really drives outages in San Antonio is when you get a combination of wind and lightning,” he said. “That’s what causes damage to an electrical system.”
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the San Antonio area on Sunday night, but allowed that to expire after an hour and issued a flash flood warning. NWS meteorologist Yvette Benavides Van Pelt said the agency sent someone to West San Antonio to survey whether damage reportedly caused by a tornado was simply caused by straight-line winds – wind that comes out of a thunderstorm.
On Monday, NWS tweeted that a tornado with winds up to 100 miles per hour did touch down in the Wildhorse subdivision Sunday evening.
“Straight line wind damage also occurred on Talley Road,” the agency tweeted.
Twitter users replied with pictures of felled trees in San Antonio.
Benavides Van Pelt said to expect similar weather Monday night, with a line of storms coming from the west again.
“We’re still under the same threats as last night with a severe thunderstorm, large hail, and strong wind,” she said. “Tornados are always possible. It’s a lower threat, but with those really strong winds something could pop up. And with any additional rain we get out of this, because the ground is already pretty saturated, we’ll be looking at flooding concerns or flooding impacts and issuing warnings based on that.”
Most of the outages on Sunday night happened north of Loop 1604 and were caused by high winds, Garza said.
“You get wind that blows tree limbs into overhead lines, and that’s primarily what the issue is going to be,” he said.
Though only tens of thousands saw sustained power outages of five minutes or more, Garza said he was told that more than 300,000 customers saw their lights blink during Sunday’s storm.
“My lights blinked last night at about 12:30 [a.m.] because a lightning strike hit the substation that serves our neighborhood,” Garza said. “Our system is built to handle those events … it basically will create an outage to allow the lightning strike to clear, and then close back in.”
Around 200 company crew members and more contract workers worked for 14 hours, only going home to rest around noon on Monday.
Only 232 customers were still reporting outages at 1:23 p.m. Monday, according to the CPS Energy outage map. CPS Energy aims to have all of those resolved by the end of the day but is also prepared for more rain on Monday night, Garza said. The utility company called in all available company and contract workers on Sunday night to help with repairs, but also cycles in who works each night so there can be fresh repairmen on reserve, he explained. He’s not sure what to expect from Monday night’s forecast.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “It’s not like a line of storms moving toward us. Last night’s storms developed right over San Antonio, and it seems the weather pattern will continue like that. A lot of times we think a storm is going to hammer us, but at the last minute, it dissipates.”
The San Antonio International Airport recorded 1.93 inches of rain Sunday, less than the record-setting rain amount on May 24 of other years, Benavides Van Pelt said. She warned people to stay aware Monday night for flash flooding.
“When you’re talking about multiple days of rain, if it rains again, the water doesn’t have anywhere to go and there’s runoff,” she said. “It becomes more of an issue as we get more and more days of rain.”
Either way, CPS is prepared to handle any more weather Monday night, Garza said.
“It just depends on how the storm develops but you plan for the worst and hope for the best, and kind of see what happens,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go again tonight.”