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Severe winds wreak havoc on county roads and structures

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Straight line winds blew through Benton County this past Friday, March 3, resulting in approximately 6,500 power outages across the county. Damage was widespread, both with personal property as well as community infrastructure.

The Benton County Electric System (BCES) was fast to respond with multiple work crews, restoring power to over 4,000 of the 6,500 affected customers by early Saturday morning. Efforts continued throughout the weekend, with BCES announcing power had been restored to all customers as of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 6.

Ben Richardson, local spotter for the National Weather Service (NWS) spotter, said much of the weather was caused by a record low pressure system. “The previous barometric record was 981, set in 1960,” explained Richardson. “That’s comparable to a category two hurricane. Per the Paducah NWS office, the center of Friday’s system was measured at 977.7.”

Richardson noted that the timing of this storm is similar to the tornado that blew through Benton County on March 5, 2020, as well as the inclement weather that led to the plane crash that claimed the lives of Patsy Cline, Randy Hughes, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins on March 5, 1963.

The Memphis NWS office reported winds reaching 66 miles per hour (MPH) in Camden. Richardson said that an unofficial report from a local resident’s weather station clocked 72 MPH winds, though he stressed that it was an unofficial reading. These winds caused major damage to power lines, trees, structures, and property throughout West and Middle Tennessee.

Sheriff Kenny Christopher noted that the many downed trees throughout the county resulted in calls that kept 911 dispatchers at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) on their toes throughout the day last Friday. In addition to the BCSO, city and county road crews, the Benton County Rescue Squad, area fire departments, CPD, BSPD, and EMS all worked together to clear roadways as quickly as possible. Even trustees from the Benton County Jail were sent out to assist in removing felled trees from the roadways. “I was proud that everyone worked together so well throughout the crisis. There is no faulting the motivation of our first responders, Buck Carter and his road crews, and area volunteers when something like this hits the county,” Christopher said. “This event did highlight some deficiencies that exist in our emergency response system, but I believe our 911 Board can work together to generate an emergency plan so that things can run more smoothly in the event of a more severe weather crisis or public safety event in the future.”

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