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High winds knock out power in parts of Berkeley County

June 30, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

GERRARDSTOWN, W.Va. - Storms that have hammered the Tri-State area in recent weeks continued Saturday night, this time hitting Berkeley County with winds clocked at 68 mph, weather officials said.

In the southern Berkeley County town of Gerrardstown, winds whipped utility poles, requiring Allegheny Energy crews to replace 13 poles, said Allegheny Energy spokesman Mark Nitowski.

Gerrardstown Road, formerly known as W.Va. 51 in Gerrardstown, was closed from the middle of town to the top of North Mountain during the day Sunday to allow about 35 Allegheny Energy workers to replace the poles, Nitowski said.

"It's a pretty big job," said Nitowski, adding it was unusual to have that many poles damaged.

"Exactly what hit there, I'm not sure. It was some pretty violent weather," said Nitowski.

Nitowski said he was told winds were gusting up to 70 mph in Gerrardstown.

A National Weather Service spokesman said the area experienced a "micro downburst," which causes strong winds as a result of a cloud collapsing.

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Although the National Weather Service did not have a wind speed report for Gerrardstown from Saturday night, a wind gust of 68 mph was recorded at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg, W.Va., said meteorological technician Calvin Meadows.

Also, a wind gust four miles south of Martinsburg was estimated at 78 mph, Meadows said.

The severe weather moved into the region shortly after 7 p.m., leaving penny-sized hail on Citizens Way in Charles Town, W.Va., and hitting other local areas like Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Meadows said.

The storm left about 7,000 people without power in the Berkeley County area and by Sunday afternoon, power had been restored to about 4,400 customers, Meadows said.

Of the remaining customers without service were about 1,800 people in the Gerrardstown and Glengary, W.Va., areas. Those customers were expected to have service back by midnight Sunday, Nitowski said.

Gerrardstown resident Vic Roberts was outside his house Sunday afternoon picking up debris from the storm.

Roberts said he was home when Saturday's storm hit and it made a "whooshing" sound as it went over, dumping heavy rain.

"Visibility was zero," Roberts said.

Within moments, the storm was gone, Roberts said.

Severe weather has been lashing the area, including a severe storm on June 4 that killed four cattle on a Jefferson County farm, hurled debris into a church on Chapel Drive in Ranson, W.Va., knocked down dozens of trees in Berkeley County and caused damages at The Home Depot store along the Charles Town Bypass in Ranson.

Meadows said much of the severe weather can be attributed to a La Niña effect, which is cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific ocean that impact global weather patterns. La Niña conditions recur every few years and can persist for as long as two years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Web site.

Meadows avoided commenting on any connection between the recent weather and global warming.

"After all, this is summer," said Meadows, explaining that storms are common this time of year.

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