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Winds do damage in Franklin, Fulton counties

November 14, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Winds gusting to more than 60 miles per hour downed trees and power lines, damaged roofs and rolled over a tractor-trailer Thursday in Franklin County, according to police and emergency communications officials.

Shortly before noon, Pennsylvania State Police and the St. Thomas (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Co. responded to a call for an overturned tractor-trailer on U.S. 30 a few hundred yards west of the Pa. 416 intersection in St. Thomas Township. The tractor-trailer was facing west, lying on the driver's side and blocking both lanes.

Two large tow trucks were trying to right the rig more than an hour after the accident and traffic was being detoured around the scene. The crews worked in winds that gusted so high it was difficult for a person to hold his ground.

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"He said the wind just blew him right over," said Trooper Tim Thomas, who talked to the driver. Thomas said the driver, whose name he did not release, suffered minor injuries and was treated at Chambersburg Hospital.

The crash occurred on a slight hill flanked by farm fields with nothing to break the winds coming out of the northwest.

County communications also reported an accident south of Exit 20 in Greene Township involving two tractor-trailers at 1:36 p.m. A trooper at the Chambersburg barracks could not confirm whether the accident was wind-related and did not have the report available.

A gust of 57 miles per hour was recorded at 11:35 a.m. by the wind gauge atop the Franklin County Courthouse. Chambersburg weather observer Jerry Ashway said his wind gauge recorded several gusts up to 48 miles per hour, nearly as fast as the highest winds he recorded when Tropical Storm Isabel came through the area in September.

A blast of 64 mph was recorded in Shippensburg, Pa., at 9:50 a.m., according to Kevin Fitzgerald, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, Pa.

"Sustained winds have been generally 30 to 40 miles per hour," Fitzgerald said Thursday afternoon. A high wind warning was scheduled to expire at midnight, but he said the area would continue to see windy conditions through today with gusts of 40 mph or more.

"We're getting a lot of reports of trees and wires down" in several Pennsylvania counties, Fitzgerald said.

Janice Lantz, a spokeswoman for Allegheny Power, said about 800 customers in Franklin County were without power at about 8 p.m. More than 3,700 were without power at 4 p.m. In neighboring Fulton County, however, the figure was just 48 at 4 p.m., she said.

Lantz said crews were kept busy all day restoring power to customers, only to get new reports of outages elsewhere. She expected most power to be restored by Thursday night, but did not rule out the possibility some customers might without power until this morning.

The outages were scattered throughout the county with incidents reported in the Chambersburg area, Waynesboro, Mercersburg, Greencastle, Fayetteville, State Line and elsewhere, Lantz said.

The Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Franklin County Prison and state police barracks, all on Franklin Farm Lane in Chambersburg, went to backup generators when they lost power during the day.

Franklin County Communications Coordinator Bryan Stevenson listed about 20 wind-related calls to the communications center from about 9 a.m. until after 2 p.m, beginning with a tree blocking Little Cove Road in Warren Township.

At about 11 a.m. the pace of calls began to pick up, with eight calls during the hour for trees on wires, wires on roads and downed trees on Shearer Road in Greene Township, the intersection of Falling Spring Road and Garman Drive in Guilford Township and Pen Mar Road in Washington Township, according to the list of calls.

There were at least three calls for wind damage to roofs during the morning and afternoon and one of a shed being blown over. Stevenson said numerous automatic alarm calls to the center may have been triggered by the winds.

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