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High winds blast through Tri-State

September 30, 1999

Barn collapseBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI, BRYN MICKLE and DAVE MCMILLION / Staff Writers

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




A line of storms packing heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 70 mph flattened a barn near Indian Springs, tossed the roof from an apartment building onto a mobile home in Ranson, W.Va., and downed trees and power lines late Wednesday.

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The wind ripped the roof from the Ranson apartment building along W.Va. 9, carried it over one mobile home, and dropped it onto a mobile home about 50 yards away, Ed Smith, chief of Independent Fire Co., said Thursday.

Donald and Mary Jenkins, the occupants of the mobile home, were not injured. A resident of the apartment building, Kimberly Wright, 35, was treated at Jefferson Memorial Hospital for a puncture wound to her leg and released, Smith said.

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The roof remained crumpled against the Jenkins' mobile home Thursday morning.

Mary Jenkins said she heard a powerful whirling sound just before the roof hit.

"The whole trailer shook. We were lucky we weren't killed, really. It was scary," said Donald Jenkins.

Wright spent the night with family members, and volunteer firefighters moved her furniture into a rental truck Thursday night to protect it from the rain, said Dave Wilt, the owner of the building.

Wilt estimated damage to his building, which also houses American Appliance Service, at between $15,000 and $25,000.

In Washington County, Helen Pittman was in her Indian Springs home near Hancock preparing to take a bath late Wednesday when she heard howling winds and a crash.

She found that gusting winds had knocked down her more than 50-year-old barn like a house of cards.

The sides of the barn lay on the ground with one portion resting on a silo Thursday. The barn's roof was scattered around her Slabtown Road property.

"I didn't realize the wind was blowing that hard," Pittman said as she surveyed the flattened barn, which had been used to store hay and equipment.

Trees were knocked down across the Tri-State area and scattered power outages were reported.

In Berkeley and Jefferson counties, 2,500 customers were without electricity early Thursday, said Janice Lantz, a spokeswoman for Allegheny Power in Greensburg, Pa.

By Thursday night, 1,200 customers in the Charles Town, W.Va., area remained without power, Lantz said.

Extra crews were working on the lines, and all power was expected to be restored in the Eastern Panhandle by early this evening, she said.

All Washington County customers had power by Thursday evening, she said.

In Frederick County, Md., 400 customers were without electricity Thursday night, but power was expected to be back on there by this afternoon, according to Lantz.

Between 100 and 150 trees were downed in Jefferson County, with the hardest hit areas in Leetown and Middleway, West Virginia Division of Highways foreman Donnie Dillow said.

West Virginia State Police dispatchers in Martinsburg began getting reports just before midnight about trees blocking Interstate 81 in the southern part of the county and roads in Inwood and Bunker Hill.

Numerous trees fell onto W.Va. 51 in Gerrardstown, blocking traffic.

West Virginia highway crews began cleaning up the mess just after midnight and had all major roads in both counties cleared by sunrise Thursday.

There were no reports of roads blocked by trees in Washington County, according to Lora Rakowski of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

High winds and rain also hit Franklin County, Pa., but there were no reports of flooding or widespread power outages, according to County Emergency Management Coordinator Dennis Monn.

A Franklin County 911 dispatcher said there were numerous reports of trees and limbs felled by the wind.

Wind gusts in Berkeley and Jefferson counties are believed to have reached upwards of 70 mph but no tornadoes were reported, according to the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

The high winds that battered West Virginia came through in a straight formation and were not indicative of any tornadic activity, Meteorologist Michelle Margraf said.

The cold front that brought the winds into West Virginia from Ohio around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday wreaked havoc as it moved from Indiana earlier Wednesday afternoon, Margraf said.

"It lost the thunder and lighting by the time it got to West Virginia but it kept the high winds," Margraf said.

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