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Straight-line wind gusts caused Washington Co. damage

A National Weather Service representative surveyed the area Thursday

A National Weather Service representative surveyed the area Thursday

June 05, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN, HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The destruction left behind by Wednesday's storm in southern Washington County was caused by straight-line wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour, according to a National Weather Service represenative who surveyed the damage Thursday.

The downed trees and structural damage found in the Sharpsburg, Keedysville and Boonsboro areas is all aligned in one direction, indicative of straight-line winds rather than the rotating winds of a tornado, according to the NWS statement.

Survey teams determined that tornadoes occurred in Calvert County, Md., and Clarke, Culpeper and Stafford counties in Virginia, the NWS said.

In Washington County, 56 homes were damaged in the storm, Washington County spokesman Norman Bassett said.

The county is completing a damage assessment but is not ready to estimate the cost of damages, Washington County Emergency Services Director Kevin L. Lewis said Thursday afternoon. He did say he does not think it will be enough to meet the thresholds required to apply for state or federal asssistance.

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Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr signed a local disaster declaration Wednesday night, which is the first step toward applying for assistance from emergency management agencies.

About 3,000 Allegheny Power customers in Washington County were still without power after Wednesday's storms, a spokesman for the power company said Thursday afternoon.

The outages were concentrated in Keedysville, Sharpsburg, Dargan, Knoxville and Rohrersville, Allegheny Power spokesman Todd Meyers said.

In addition, between 1,000 and 2,000 customers remained without power in Inwood, Charles Town and Shepherdstown in Jefferson County, W.Va., Meyers said.

He said the company expects power to be restored to "a lot" of customers in both counties by late today but said some customers could be without power until Saturday.

Most of the outages were caused by downed trees and limbs that have fallen on power lines, Meyers said.

Meyers said people who see downed power lines should call 911 or Allegheny Power at 1-800-255-3443.

"If you see a line on the ground, assume it's electric and that it and everything it is touching is energized. Under no circumstances should you touch a line," Meyers said.

Cleanup activities were ongoing Thursday, as all county Highway Department crews were dispatched to the affected area, around Keedysville, Sharpsburg and on South Mountain east of Boonsboro.

Most of the work Thursday was centered on "debris management," or cleaning up tree limbs and other things that fell into the road or onto property and power lines during the storm, Lewis said.

All county roads were passable by Thursday evening, Washington County Highway Department Director Ed Plank said.

The County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday with representation from the Division of Fire and Emergency Services, Public Works and the Red Cross.

That center was still open Thursday afternoon, Lewis said.

County damage assessment teams worked through the night and the Division of Public Works and Allegany Power worked together to open roadways as they were declared to be safe.

Permits and inspections personnel performed residential inspections, and additional damage inspections were to be completed today.

The county was encouraging residents to report property damage to special telephone lines set up at the EOC. Those wishing to do so may call 240-313-2930 to report damage or request assistance of a nonemergency nature.

Lewis said no injuries had been reported by civilians or fire and EMS personnel. Red Cross sheltered approximately three families, and temporary shelters are in place at the Sharpsburg EMS company.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was in the area on Thursday, working in concert with Washington County Emergency Management to assess the scope of damage incurred in the incident.

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