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Fierce winds tear through southern Washington Co.

No reports of storm-related injuries but at least two buildings partially collapsed

No reports of storm-related injuries but at least two buildings partially collapsed

June 05, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

SHARPSBURG -- Fierce winds tore through southern Washington County Wednesday afternoon, uprooting trees, damaging houses and knocking out power throughout the Sharpsburg, Keedysville and Rohrersville areas.

There were no reports of storm-related injuries, but emergency officials responded to four reports of lightning striking houses and at least two partial building collapses, Washington County Emergency Services officials said. Almost 4,000 Washington County residents were without power Wednesday night, according to Allegheny Power's online outage tracking system.

Fifteen homes were severely damaged in the county, and more than 200 trees fell, according to Katie Leahan, spokeswoman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Calls began coming in at about 2:50 p.m. and peaked at about 3:30 p.m., according to Don Weigel, assistant chief of Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co., where state, county and local officals set up an emergency operation headquarters.

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In Keedysville, where the storm blew trees onto houses and blew the siding and metal flashing off of buildings, Mayor Matthew Hull said it was the worst storm he had seen in more than a decade as mayor.

"I figured when I saw a garage door all bent and buckled in ... from wind damage, it's just like, 'Wow,'" Hull said.

The damage was most severe in Cannon Ridge, a new Keedysville development on a hill, Hull said. Dan Ryan Builders, the company that built the new homes, offered to come in and repair the damage free of charge, Hull said.

Mike Mowen, director of emergency services for the Washington County Red Cross, said the agency is providing food and shelter for a family of three after winds ripped the roof off their home in the 20700 block of Park Hall Road near Boonsboro.

"It looked like the roof was picked up and put back down," Mowen said.

No one was injured in the incident, which involved two adults and one child, Mowen said. After three days, the family will have to find their own shelter.

"We can't do much more after three days," he said.

The storm also caused the partial collapse of a house on Amos Reeder Road in Rohrersville, emergency dispatchers said.

Along Md. 65 near Antietam National Battlefield, the road was lined with leaves and debris, and downed trees and limbs were visible every few hundred feet.

At Sharpsburg Elementary School, the school's main transformer box caught fire at about 4 p.m., principal Carl Stark said. A teacher said the box was smoking, and when Stark went outside to investigate, the box "blew up" and its doors blew open, he said.

Students were dismissed early because it was the last day of school, but teachers were in the building working on report cards, Stark said. The county was working on finding a new place for the teachers to work until power could be restored, he said.

"I have really never seen it rain that hard," Stark said. "The sky just opened up."

Highway crews worked throughout the evening to clear trees from roads, and as of about 9:30 p.m., only three roads remained closed, county officials said.

They were:

· King Road between Md. 34 and Md. 67

· Red Hill Road between Dogstreet and Porterstown roads

· Taylors Landing Road in Sharpsburg at the bridge near Woburn Road

The MARC commuter rail line in Maryland canceled all trains for today on its Brunswick Line, which runs from Washington to West Virginia, because of downed trees, spokeswoman Jo Green said.

More than 1,500 Keedysville residents remained without power at about 11 p.m. Wednesday, along with more than 1,400 Sharpsburg residents, according to the Allegheny Power Web site. Most of those customers were expected to be restored by this morning, but some isolated outages might not be restored until Friday, according to the site.

Staff writer Dan Dearth and The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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