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Some areas still without power day after tornadoes hit

June 18, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE and LISA GRAYBEALs

by RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

click image for enlargement

Tree down

Powerful storms that ripped through the Tri-State area Tuesday night spawned at least three tornadoes with winds up to 100 mph, meteorologists at the National Weather Service said.

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No one was seriously injured or left homeless by the storms that toppled trees and power lines, and ripped off roofs.

Some businesses and residents in the area were still without electricity Wednesday night, but Allegheny Power spokeswoman Midge Teahan said most power would be restored by this morning.

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Officials at Hagerstown's City Light Department said workers hoped to have power restored Wednesday night to the nearly 1,000 customers still without electricity.

Power crews had to work around the clock clearing trees and other storm debris from electric lines and replacing downed utility poles before repairs on the lines could begin, said City Light spokesman Karl Kohler.

Funnel clouds




Two funnel clouds in Washington County, packing winds of 70 to 90 mph, cut parallel paths of destruction from the Tammany and Van Lear Manor neighborhoods northeast to Halfway, said Barbara Watson of the National Weather Service.

A third funnel cloud touched down just southeast of Washington County Regional Airport and traveled northeast about two miles to the Pennsylvania state line.

A fourth funnel cloud spotted in Fulton County, Pa., passed through the outskirts of downtown McConnellsburg, uprooting trees, tearing part of a roof from a milking parlor at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, and blowing out illuminated shopping center signs, said Debbie Buterbaugh, a Red Cross disaster coordinator in Fulton County.

Lisa Sherman, deputy emergency management coordinator for Fulton County, said it would take a few days to determine whether a tornado touched down there.

The most severe damage was at Valley Mall and Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown, where a tornado with 100 mph winds ripped parts of roofs off two vacant commercial buildings.

That tornado traveled north-northeast on a path five miles long and 100 yards wide through Hagerstown's West End and North End, including Hagerstown Business College, Fountainhead, and Fairgreen Acres.

At the same time, a separate funnel cloud formed near Van Lear Manor and traveled northeast, crossing the densely populated Greenberry Hills before dissipating just southeast of the Washington County Detention Center, Watson said.

That tornado uprooted and sheared dozens of trees and power lines in a path three miles long and 200 yards wide, Watson said.

All three tornadoes in Washington County were rated F1 on a scale of 0 to 5, with F5 representing the worst damage and highest wind speed, she said.

house crasher'Gustnadoes'




All three were the type of tornadoes called "gustnadoes" because they form from the "gust run," or the leading edge, of a powerful thunderstorm, Watson said.

When the leading edge begins to bow outward in the center, the wind speeds along the line begin to vary, creating ideal conditions for a tornado, she said.

On radar, the weather service saw the storm bowing and issued a tornado watch.

At 6:08 p.m., after an official weather observer in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia spotted a funnel cloud, the watch was upgraded to a tornado warning.

The storm moved southwest to northeast.

Countless trees and power lines were toppled in Berkeley County, said Berkeley County Emergency Services Director Stephen Allen.

Most of the damage was in the northern part of the county near the Jefferson County border and in the southern part of Berkeley County near Ridgeway, just north of the Virginia line, Allen said.

Jefferson County escaped nearly unscathed, officials there said.

A National Weather Service survey team toured parts of Berkeley County on Wednesday to try to confirm whether a tornado had struck the area, said weather service meteorologist Tom Dougherty. He said there was one unconfirmed report of a tornado sighting in northern Berkeley County.

Shoppers were evacuated from Valley Mall as strong winds took off portions of the roof and smashed at least one window.

The damage was repaired and the mall reopened about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Bon-Ton in the mall sustained smoke damage from a storm-related electrical fire overnight, but opened later Wednesday afternoon.

When firefighters arrived at the Bon-Ton at 2:45 a.m., they found heavy smoke on both floors. The source was traced to a utility room where a sprinkler had gone off to douse a fire in the electrical system, confining the fire to that room.

Halfway firefighters were there until 5:30 a.m.

The department was already short staffed because of a fire convention in Ocean City, Md., this week.

"I've been up for 48 hours," Deputy Halfway Fire Chief Doug DeHaven said at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

At Lakeside Trailer Park, winds blew the skirts off some trailers.

From Halfway, the storm crossed the West End of Hagerstown.

A downed tree rested against the front of a two-story house at 818 Marshall St.

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