2009-08-06 / Front Page

Microburst Hits Thompson Twp.

Strong winds topple trees; roads closed
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Officials with the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency are reporting the brief appearance of a microburst last Wednesday afternoon in Thompson Township that damaged several out buildings and shut down multiple roadways.

Distinguishable from a tornado, a microburst can appear suddenly in wet or dry form and produces a localized column of sinking air. The end result in Thompson Township was trees crushing sheds, torn barn roofing, downed branches and trees on area roadways as well trees propelled onto the roofs of area homes.

EMA Director Vince Joyce said the microburst contained both heavy rain and extreme wind, although the windy conditions were confirmed to a very narrow area. The microburst itself spanned an area one-halfmile wide and up to two miles long and primarily affected the area south of Big Cove Tannery along Route 928 (Big Cove Tannery Road) and Pittman Road.

Joyce stated he was initially made aware of tornado warnings in the surrounding areas when he received a call at approximately 4 p.m. last Wednesday from county Deputy EMA coordinator Ray Miller. Miller observed a strange appearance or color in the sky and told Joyce a tornado warning had been issued in West Virginia.

Even though no tornado issue had been released for Fulton County, simultaneously with Miller's announcement, wind and water broke loose from the sky in that particular portion of Thompson Township, Joyce said.

Multiple crews from Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Frontier, Allegheny Power and PennDOT reportedly worked to clear the area, in addition to steps taken by private homeowners. As of 9 p.m. on July 29, Big Cove Tannery road had been cleared and reopened for traffic. East Pittman Road had reopened by the following morning, Joyce noted.

"Everything was pretty well cleaned up or was in the process of being cleaned up by the next morning," concluded Joyce.

Meanwhile in neighboring Franklin County, residents reported hearing a "freight trainlike noise" and observing a funnel cloud in the Mercersburg area. It has not been confirmed that the cloud touched down and took a tornado-like form, but winds did reach an estimated 60 to 70 miles per hour.

The majority of the damage suffered in Franklin County was recorded in the Lemasters area to the northeast of Mercersburg. A total of 15 individuals were reportedly left homeless in that county as a result of damage that included toppled outhouses, missing roofing and flooding on South Potomac Street in Waynesboro.

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