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'Organized line' of storms accompanied by 65-mph winds

May 27, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

An “organized line” of thunderstorms moved through Washington County Sunday night, packing estimated winds up to 65 mph and causing a large tree to fall across a house along Woodside Drive off Sharpsburg Pike, according to weather and rescue officials.

The tree, about three to four feet in diameter, fell on a corner of the house and stretched across about three- quarters of the house, said Leonard Heller Jr., chief of Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

“There’s a good bit of damage inside,” said Heller, who was waiting at the scene at about 9 p.m. for a building inspector to arrive to determine if the house was safe to enter.

The tree caused ceiling damage to a room on the corner of the house at 18310 Woodside Drive, Heller said.

Jen Paugh, who lives next door, said she noticed strong winds and black skies when the storms started. A tree toppled over in her yard when one of the storms went through, said Paugh, who was worried the storm might have been a tornado.

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“I just got the kids into the center part of the house,” Paugh said.

A spokesman for the Washington County 911 center said the center was swamped with calls after the storms and could not comment.

The storms are referred to as a “mesoscale convective system,” said Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

Mesoscale convective system storms typically occur in hot weather and can be tricky to predict because they develop quickly, Jackson said. Another term for the system is an “organized line” of thunderstorms, he said.

Jackson said there was no indication that a tornado touched down in the county.

Jackson said his agency estimated winds in the county were between 50 and 65 mph.

Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer said on his website at i4weather.net that winds gusted to 46 mph in Hagerstown at 7:41 p.m.

Emergency dispatchers in Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, and Franklin County in Pennsylvania reported only minor damage from the storm.

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