Storms toppled trees, utility poles

June 20, 1998


Staff Writer

A fresh barrage of severe storms hit the area Friday, mowing down trees in a Hopewell Road apartment complex and cutting a swath through Doub's Woods Park.

The storms hit while area residents were still cleaning up damage from a string of tornadoes that struck on Tuesday.

The blast of wind and rain toppled trees next to the South End Shopping Center then crossed Maryland Avenue, snapping huge trees in half in Doub's Woods Park and downing utility poles.

Clifford Davis said he was in bed about 7:30 a.m. when he heard a roaring noise outside his home in the Hopewell Manor Apartments off Hopewell Road between Hagerstown and Williamsport.


Davis looked out the window and saw what he believes was a tornado - a swirling black mass moving across the parking lot. It knocked down several large flowering pear trees, then bobbed up and down for about five minutes, said Davis, who is a member of the Williamsport Ambulance Service.

"I've been in the fire and rescue service for a long time and I've never seen anything like that before," he said.

County parks and recreation crews cleaning up debris in Doub's Woods Park said the damage there appeared to have been caused by a tornado.

National Weather Service officials could not say whether Friday's storm was a tornado.

Weather officials studied radar data from Washington County and determined the area probably was struck by a "downburst," said Dewey Walston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

A downburst is a surge of wind shooting down from the base of a thunderstorm, Walston said. A downburst can make noise like a tornado and can knock down trees, Walston said. There also can be several downbursts once the air hits the ground, Walston said.

"Downbursts can fool you quite a few times," Walston said.

Weather service officials were not planning to travel to the area to look at the storm's aftermath because no structures were damaged, he said.

No injuries or damaged buildings were reported in the county, officials said.

Fierce storms also struck southeastern Frederick County, Md., and the damage there appeared to be worse, although there was no sign of tornadoes there either, Walston said.

The storms followed close to the same path as the tornadoes that struck Washington County Tuesday night. At least three tornadoes packing winds up to 100 mph cut through the county, passing through the Tammany and Van Lear Manor neighborhoods and the Halfway area. A funnel cloud was spotted near the Washington County Regional Airport and another was spotted in Fulton County, Pa.

The worst damage Tuesday was at Valley Mall and Wesel Boulevard, where winds up to 100 mph ripped sections from the roofs of two commercial buildings.

The wind at Doub's Woods Park Friday morning shattered a plastic sign at a nearby business and blew parts of it about 300 yards away in the park, said Washington County Parks and Recreation Department workers. The employees spent the morning using chainsaws to cut up an estimated 10 trees that were toppled in the park.

The violent weather was witnessed in several areas of the county.

Chris Reid was working at the Food Lion supermarket on Frederick Street when he heard an unusual sound outside about 7:30 a.m. He walked outside and it was raining so hard that he couldn't see 15 feet across the parking lot.

"It was like a wall of water. It was really something," Reid said.

At the Staples distribution center, which is near the Hopewell Manor Apartments on Hopewell Road, several people saw what they believed was a funnel cloud, said Doug DeHaven, deputy chief of the Halfway Volunteer Fire Co.

A tree fell on a house along Virginia Avenue between the 1700 and the 1800 block, officials said. Damage to the house did not appear to be severe, officials said.

Between 135 and 150 Allegheny Power customers lost service from Friday's storms and officials believed service would be restored by the end of the day, said Allegheny Power spokeswoman Angie Figueroa.

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