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Trees, power lines fall in wake of high winds

April 04, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - Connie Whigham said her family awoke to a crashing sound Sunday morning as a white pine tree toppled and crushed her son's pickup truck and husband's boat.

"It happened at 4:13 a.m. The whole household heard it except me ... the self-proclaimed insomniac," Whigham, of 11949 Furnace Road, said Sunday afternoon.

She said her son, Gary, a musician, was visiting from Annapolis, and the boat was "my husband's Boston whaler, his pride and joy."

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The truck and boat probably were totaled, she said.

Chambersburg, Pa., weather observer Jerry Ashway said the highest gusts he recorded over the weekend were one of 35 mph Saturday afternoon and another Sunday afternoon. Sunday, however, had the higher sustained winds of more than 20 mph and more frequent gusts above 30 mph, Ashway said.

The winds, combined with recent rains soaking the ground, could topple trees such as white pines and other varieties with shallow root systems, said Ashway, who noted there could have been higher wind speeds in higher elevations, such as Blue Ridge Summit.

A dispatcher at the Franklin County 911 center said there were no reports of wind damage or flooding for the weekend, but there were calls Sunday afternoon of some utility poles damaged or down in the Mercersburg, Pa., area. The cause, however, had not been determined, the dispatcher said.

Blue Ridge Mountain Fire & Rescue Chief John Fleagle also said his company had no calls for wind damage or flooding over the weekend.

Because it was limited to property damage, Whigham said her family's first impulse was to call their insurance company, not their fire company.

Waynesboro, Pa., weather observer Todd Toth said there were sustained winds in the mid- to high-20s overnight, but the highest gusts he recorded, 44 mph, occurred Sunday at around 7 and 9 p.m.

"I'm sure up in Blue Ridge (Summit) they caught something higher than that," he said.

In West Virginia, high winds caused problems in the Hedgesville area, according to emergency dispatchers.

There were two instances where trees were blown into power lines, a dispatcher said. In both situations, the downed power lines led to small fires in wooded areas, the dispatcher said.

One of the fires occurred about 8 p.m. on Process Road and the second fire broke out along Butts Mill Road about 5 p.m., the dispatcher said.

There were many calls of power lines and trees down in Morgan County, but there were few reported problems in Jefferson County, dispatchers said.

High winds and downed trees knocked out electricity to about 22,000 Allegheny Power customers across parts of West Virginia on Sunday.

The hardest-hit areas were in Franklin, Berkeley Springs, Fort Ashby and the Star City area of Morgantown, company spokesman Fred Solomon said.

Most customers were expected to have their power restored by Monday, he said.

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