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Microburst caused Pa. storm damage

Officials determined no tornadoes touched down in Franklin and Fulton counties

Officials determined no tornadoes touched down in Franklin and Fulton counties

July 30, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

LEMASTERS, Pa. -- Officials with the National Weather Service used pictures and verbal observations to determine tornadoes did not touch down in Franklin or Fulton counties on Wednesday afternoon.

Meteorologist Dave Ondrejik said he was impressed by images of an uprooted tree and a shed that was blown off its foundation.

"For that tree to come down, to be uprooted, it had to take at least 65 to 70 mph winds," he said.

Ondrejik talked to emergency management coordinators in Franklin and Fulton counties, and he looked at pictures submitted by a meteorologist. What he saw and heard prompted him to decide damage was caused by straight-line winds, sometimes called a microburst.

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Ondrejik said making that determination is easier this time of year because hay and corn crops provide clues. Pictures of corn provided to Ondrejik show the stalks pushed over in one direction instead of in a swirling pattern.

"Everything was too sporadic," he said. "For it to be a tornado, you have to have a path, or a swath, of damage."

Residents of Lemasters told The Herald-Mail and emergency officials they heard a low roar during the storm, which wiped out a line of trees and a pavilion. The damage occurred about 4:30 p.m.

In Chambersburg, Pa., about 15 people living in apartments above a jewelry store on South Main Street were evacuated when a storm damaged the building's roof.

"That same storm produced damage in Fulton County," Ondrejik said. "It looked like straight-line winds there, too."

A resident of Monroe County, Pa., in the Allentown area, used a mobile device to capture video of a confirmed tornado there Wednesday, he said.

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