May 09--SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Each minute of tornado-level winds and golf ball-size hail meant about $25,000 worth of damage at the San Angelo Regional Airport -- adding up to a $250,000 price tag.
The brief but fierce storm that hit the National Weather Service office at 8:22 p.m. Wednesday lost some strength as it moved through San Angelo. City officials said the air traffic control tower at the airport recorded sustained winds of 91 mph at 8:26 p.m., but wind speeds were closer to 40 mph as the storm rolled through the city.
The system dropped 0.23 inch of rain on the airport, bringing the year-to-date rainfall total to 0.75 inch -- 4.95 inches below the norm for this time of year, according to the NWS.
Meteorologist Patrick Doll said Wednesday's winds were equivalent to the strength of an EF0 to EF1 tornado. An EF1 tornado has 73-112 mph winds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Wednesday's gusts peeled back roofs of executive hangars and pushed rollaway doors off their tracks, according to a city news release. They also caused the trunk of a tree to shatter at the Emergency Operations Center, and hail knocked out a window at the airport tower.
The $250,000 damage estimate does not include damage to private hangars, a dozen private aircraft or more than 50 rental cars dented by hail. Anthony Wilson, the city's public information officer, said the damages will not affect airport operations.
San Angelo's National Weather Service office measured 82 mph winds at the airport before a sensor on its equipment was damaged by hail about the size of a Ping-Pong ball.
Meteorologists Mike Johnson and Steve Lyons went out Thursday morning to survey damage around town.
Johnson said they mostly saw broken mesquite limbs up to 8 inches in diameter and some roof shingle damage on buildings north of the airport.
Near Lake Shore Village, a billboard lay on the ground after it snapped at the base.
"It was pretty old," Johnson said, "but that's a pretty stout wind to break it."
San Angelo firefighters shut down a portion of West Avenue B in downtown San Angelo after winds tore down a 120-foot-long wall of a two-story building that formerly housed Brest Boot Co. The building was gutted in a December 2008 fire.
Owner Garrick Engle said he had no set plans when he bought the property three years ago. Because the building had a historical overlay, getting permission to remove a portion of the building has taken time.
"Hopefully, they'll let me demo it," Engle said as he began clearing bricks. "I don't want anyone hurt or killed from the walls collapsing."
Most wind damage occurred in the south and southeast areas of San Angelo -- near Mary E. Lee Park along Lake Nasworthy and north of Loop 306, Johnson said. A portion of a fence that borders the Goodfellow Rec Camp near Lake Nasworthy was blown down.
City officials said they removed 13 trees that were toppled in parks as well as the one destroyed at the airport's Emergency Operations Center.
Winds also caused an AEP power pole at Unidad Park to lean, prompting crews to respond.
Storms such as Wednesday's, known as a microburst, are typically only a couple of miles wide, Johnson said, which explains why some areas in San Angelo received minimal rain and no hail.
A microburst occurs when air sinks amid a thunderstorm that is less than 2.5 miles in scale, according to the NWS website. Some can pose a threat to life and property, but all microbursts pose a significant threat to aviation.
They are not as widely recognized as tornadoes, but they can cause damage comparable to or worse than that produced by some tornadoes. Wind speeds as high as 150 mph are possible in extreme microburst cases.
Most areas of San Angelo saw at least a trace of rain and wind.
This storm developed south of Ozona and moved northeast through Schleicher County, through eastern Crockett County and into the Knickerbocker and Dove Creek areas. Once it passed San Angelo, it continued toward the west side of Ballinger, where it merged with a thunderstorm squall line near Sterling City, producing 70 to 80 mph winds.
Gusts may pick up again Saturday and Sunday, but they are expected to reach only 15 to 25 mph.
Showers and thunderstorms are possible Sunday night into Monday, with more severe weather possible.
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