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Strong wind downs trees, knocks out power to 900

July 01, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

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Storm causes more damage

A storm packing up to 60 mph winds Tuesday was blamed for downing trees and power lines and causing a fire at Fil-Tec Inc. in Cavetown.

There were no reports of serious injuries as a result of the storm, although a falling tree narrowly missed two bears at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in Thurmont, Md.

The storm struck about 6 p.m., downing trees and knocking out power to about 900 customers in Washington County, said Allegheny Power spokeswoman Debbie Beck.

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The Smithsburg area was the hardest hit, she said.

Power lines came down on top of houses on C&P Lane and East Water Street, said Smithsburg Fire Chief Ron Jeter.

When Fil-Tec in nearby Cavetown briefly lost power, an exhaust system on a machine that generates 800-degree temperatures quit working and the chimney caught fire, Jeter said.

About 10 to 12 employees had already left the building when firefighters arrived, he said.

About 35 firefighters put out the fire, Jeter said.

Timothy Stouffer, a Fil-Tec worker, said he expected the plant to be open for business today.

Fil-Tec makes coated yarns, fibers and threads.

At the zoo, winds snapped a 60-foot tree in half, causing it to fall on a unit housing two sun bears, said director Whitney Hahn.

The tree crushed a guardrail designed to keep visitors away from the bears and dented the cage, said Hahn.

The bears quickly rushed into an overnight holding area when it was opened for them by zoo workers, said Hahn.

"I think they were as scared as we were," said Hahn.

Hahn estimated the damage to be at least $1,000.

Other trees were knocked down on the zoo's property, but none of the animals was hurt, said Hahn.

Sun bears, which are from Malaysia, are the smallest species of bear, weighing up to 250 pounds, Hahn said.

Near Leitersburg, Paul Sweeney came home from work to find a 10-by-10-foot wooden shed in his back yard blown to pieces by the high winds.

"It looks like a tornado went right through my yard," said Sweeney, of 13111 Herman Myers Road.

A Troy-Bilt tiller inside the destroyed shed landed about 50 feet away, a wooden swing set in his yard was blown into a fence. Tree limbs also came down in his yard and that of a neighbor, he said.

The National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said it was probably not a tornado.

The storm did carry with it a strong downburst of air with winds of between 50 and 60 mph, he said.

The storm was the latest evidence of a very active weather pattern this summer, the weather service said.

About 700 Washington County homes remained without power at 8:30 p.m., Beck said.

Leitersburg was hit hard, but power outages were reported in scattered areas from Hancock in the western part of the county to Knoxville to the south, she said.

About 60 Allegheny Power customers in Little Cove, Pa., near Mercersburg, Pa., also lost power due to lightning and high winds, she said.

Crews were working to restore power by this morning at the latest, Beck said.

- Staff writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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