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Storm slashes Tri-State area

June 06, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART and SCOTT BUTKI

marlob@herald-mail.com

scottb@herald-mail.com

A fierce 10-minute hailstorm barreled through the Tri-State area late Wednesday afternoon, bringing down dozens of trees and power lines and sending a cement-block wall crashing onto a car in a downtown Hagerstown parking lot.

No injuries were reported to authorities during the storm, which began shortly after 5 p.m. and ended less than 30 minutes later.

About two-thirds of an inch of rain fell in portions of Washington County.

There were reports of damage in parts of Washington County and Pennsylvania and in Winchester, Va., and Inwood, W.Va., a utility company spokeswoman said.

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Greg Moxley, who got caught in the storm leaving his job at Hagerstown's Baltimore Street Station Car Wash, said the hail was "golf ball-sized. It started out small and kept on getting bigger."

Steve Dickey said the hailstones were "Ping-Pong ball-sized" at his North End home. Ronald E. Brown Sr., of 60 Frederick St., estimated they were the size of a half dollar.

A cement-block wall along the rear side of 31-33 E. Franklin St. was blown over by the strong winds that accompanied the storm.

"I walked out the door to catch a breeze and I saw the wall come down. It pulled the wires and (then I saw) a big spark and boom," said Phillip Fulcher, 38, who lives across the street.

The wall was free-standing, the remains of a building torn down as many as 20 to 30 years ago, but with two large electric meter boxes attached to it. City Light Department workers cut the electricity to the meter boxes.

A red car was crushed by part of the wall.

Building owner Peter Schaffnit said the residents of three of the six apartments in the building were going to stay elsewhere for the night because of the loss of electricity. Schaffnit, who also owns Duke's Tavern in the same building, said the tenants were given the option of leaving for the night, and should have their electricity back today.

Representatives from the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross were at the scene to help with the temporary relocations.

"I got three kids so I can't stay in there without electricity. It's too hot," said Wayne Dillow, 30, one of the apartment residents who said he was going to go to a motel for the night.

"It was kind of unbelievable ... it came up so fast. You couldn't see two or three feet in front of you with the rain and the wind and the hail," Dillow said.

In Pennsylvania, the Zullinger area west of Waynesboro, and Marsh and Iron Bridges roads south of the borough were hard hit as the storm tore through early Wednesday evening.

Whole trees and giant limbs broke away in the high winds and landed on power lines, emergency services and fire department officials said. At least one utility pole was snapped and traffic was being detoured around one power line that was on the ground on Iron Bridges Road.

The roof was blown off a building on Pa. 16 in Zullinger that housed a dozen or more vintage automobiles owned by Dean Hebb of Waynesboro.

The section of roof rolled forward over a porch roof that protected a row of vehicles, but the porch roof held up and no cars were damaged.

Among the vehicles that had been parked under the porch roof was a 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible once owned by Waylon Jennings, the late country and western star.

"I didn't lose anything, but the cars inside are soaking wet and the floor is flooded. So is the basement," Hebb said.

A few hundred yards to the east, a crew was cutting up three of four tree trunks that were knocked over. Three of the trunks landed on power lines while the fourth was blown harmlessly to the ground.

Trees and huge branches of trees were strewn along a stretch of Marsh Road. Some laid across power lines, but no lines were on the ground.

Dale Fishack, chief of the Waynesboro Fire Department, said Tick Ridge Road was washed out by the storm.

Smithsburg meteorologist Jim Vaughn said he watched "a very small storm cell" work its way west of Ringgold in northeastern Washington County.

"We only got .10 of an inch of rain and some pea-sized hail here in Smithsburg," Vaughn said.

"It was as busy here as I've seen it," said veteran dispatcher Robert Kefauver at Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications in downtown Hagerstown. "We had 67 calls starting around 5 p.m."

Many of those calls came from the Leitersburg and Ringgold areas. Trees were down on the Miller's Church Road and one tree fell on a house at 21070 Leiters Mill Road, Kefauver said.

Allegheny Power lines were dragged down by trees, resulting in power outages that at their peak affected about 1,500 Washington County residents, said Tara Curtis, Allegheny Power spokeswoman.

"By 8:30 p.m., about 1,100 of those customers were back in service," Curtis said Wednesday. The remaining 400 customers were scattered in 22 separate areas. Some may have to wait until 7 a.m. today to be restored, Curtis said.

In Hagerstown's South End, Joe Yeakle said he had "no luck at all" Wednesday.

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