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Violent storms send some scrambling for basements in Jefferson Co.

June 05, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.VA. -- Limbs were tossed like spears into the side of a church off 13th Avenue in Ranson.

The surge of wind and rain - possibly a "weak tornado" - left shards of glass and other debris scattered on pews inside the Church of Christ at Ranson on Chapel Drive Wednesday afternoon.

At The Home Depot along the Charles Town Bypass, winds lifted a structure used to store shopping carts in the parking lot and sent it crashing into Elba Carr's Kia Sorrento.

Customers looked out the large glass windows at the front of the store as black and gray skies pounded the building with wind and rain, said Carr, the store's operations manager.

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"It was super-intense. I have not seen anything like that since I lived in Florida," said Carr, who said she has witnessed hurricanes.

On Cranes Lane, which turns off Mildred Street in Ranson, Doris Payne's son-in-law heard a rattling sound when the storm hit.

"I guess that was this tree splitting here," said Payne, looking toward a huge tree which smashed into the corner of her two-story house.

"I don't think I've ever seen it rain so hard," Payne said.

Those were some of the stories after a violent storm Wednesday afternoon in Jefferson County that frightened people and sent some scrambling into basements after a tornado warning was issued for Jefferson County.

Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it is possible the disturbance was a "weak tornado," but said weather officials will not know probably until today whether it was one. To make that determination, weather experts will have to examine storm damage and analyze eyewitness accounts of the storm, Strong said.

National Weather Service officials were still calculating wind speeds and rain amounts from the storm Wednesday night.

A tornado warning was issued for the county about 2:30 p.m. and people were told to take cover.

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been observed or when a weather radar identifies strong rotation of clouds. Weather officials believe the latter was the case for Jefferson County.

Although the damage was spread throughout the county like along W.Va. 45 west of Shepherdstown and along Country Club Road off U.S. 340, most of the damage seemed concentrated in Ranson, said Barbara Miller, Jefferson County's emergency manager.

Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson had to temporarily turn patients away after it lost power and switched to a generator power system and more than 3,700 county residents were without power at one point Wednesday night, Miller said.

It appears there was a concentrated swath of damage about a quarter mile wide in northeast Ranson, Ranson Police Chief Bill Roper said.

Marcia Whittington of 512 E. 12th Ave., stood beside a mass of roots which were kicked from the ground when a large evergreen fell in front of her house. It was knocked over when winds snapped the top of another nearby tree and tossed it into the evergreen, Whittington said.

At the Church of Christ at Ranson, the top of a tree was twisted off and hurled about 25 yards away to the church. Two limbs were poked into the siding of the church and two windows were shattered.

Church member Madline Terrell walked past the damage inside and thought about what the situation would have been like had the storm waited a few more hours when the church would have had its normal 6:30 p.m. Wednesday services.

"We're lucky. Real lucky," Terrell said.

Mark McDonald, evangelist at the church, said he had not formulated any damage estimates.

Sunday services might be held in the damaged sanctuary, although it might be stuffy since the storm knocked over an air conditioning unit, McDonald said.

At 809 N. Reymann St., George Breeden was watching workers cut up a large poplar tree that he estimates has been in his yard 70 years.

Breeden said he was home when the storm hit.

"You couldn't see," he said.

Breeden said another huge tree fell on his neighbor's house.

Workers were on the roof of the house spreading a large sheet of plastic over the damaged area.

At The Home Depot, a utility trailer for sale in the parking lot lifted off the ground and dropped on the pavement, busting a wooden bottom and breaking the tailgate. Racks of bedding plants were bent out of shape after being rustled around.

Streets in the Briar Run subdivision behind The Marketplace at Potomac Towne Center were littered with tree debris.

In Berkeley County, storm damage was mostly limited to downed trees and power lines generally south and west of Martinsburg, but few homes received structural damage, according to Stephen S. Allen, the county's office of homeland security and emergency management director.

Multiple power lines knocked down along Apple Harvest Drive near Rocky Noll School closed the road for several hours, but Allen said he did not believe the Seventh-day Adventist Church's learning center off Advent Drive received structural damage.

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