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Storm leaves damage in wake

May 13, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

A brief but violent spring storm cut through the Tri-State area around 6 p.m. Saturday, toppling trees, flooding streets, downing wires and leaving hundreds of residents without power.

Hardest hit was Jefferson County, W.Va., where more than a mile of W.Va. 9 in the Fox Glen/Leetown section had to be shut down.

Tony Thomas, foreman of the West Virginia Department of Highways in Jefferson County, said he heard a tornado may have touched down around 6:30 p.m., causing a lot of the damage. But Darrell Penwell, director of Jefferson County Emergency Services, said he believed a wind shear may have caused the damage.

Contacted in his vehicle as he canvassed the hardest-hit areas Saturday evening, Penwell said there were a lot of utility poles split by high winds but not blocking the roadway along W.Va. 51 in the Tuscawilla Hills section of Jefferson County.

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"I'm still checking, but it looks like straight wind damage, not the characteristic twisting you see with a tornado," Penwell said.

Penwell said traffic on W.Va. 9 was being detoured through Leetown and back out onto the highway at the Sheetz Store in Kearneysville.

That section of W.Va. 9 was expected to be cleared by midnight, Penwell said.

Trees and wires were downed in Hagerstown and parts of Washington County as the storm roared through just after 6 p.m.

"We have at least 800 to 900 customers in and around Hagerstown without power because of the storm," said Allegheny Power spokesman Allen Staggers.

Of those, more than 300 were residents of Orchard Hills, Staggers said.

He said Frederick County also had between 500 and 600 storm-related outages, mostly in Mt. Airy, Poolesville and Emmitsburg.

Some 1,400 customers in Jefferson County, W.Va., lost power because of the storm.

"All our crews are out and will be working until power is restored," Staggers said Saturday night.

Sharon Palank was on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown in her car when the storm hit.

"It was scary because the rain was coming down from every direction," Palank said.

She got home safely to her Tropicana Drive residence off Marsh Pike, just in time to watch a 17-year-old Bradford Pear tree in her yard topple over on her daughter's Chevrolet Corsica.

"Just Tuesday, we had a tree expert tell us we needed to get that tree trimmed or it could come down in a storm," Palank said.

Elsewhere, the torrential rain accompanying the storm backed up storm drains in the South End of Hagerstown and inundated the Memorial Boulevard underpass, stranding at least one motorist briefly.

In Frederick County, a tree came down on a house at 6203 Mountain Church Road at 6:39 p.m. Damage was unknown, but no one was hurt.

Firefighters armed with chainsaws responded to reports of trees down blocking roads in Gapland and on Water Street in downtown Smithsburg.

Officials in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Franklin County, Pa., reported little wind and little damage. Both areas experienced a hard rain.

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