Thursday Storm Stories Recalled
After having several tornado warnings come to pass, local residents are still cleaning up from the effects of last Thursday evening’s storm that saw whipping winds and hail up to the size of a softball pummel southern Fulton County.
Fulton County Emergency Management officials Ray Miller and Ruth Strait spent the majority of Friday surveying and photographing the aftermath of the storm that left a large number of rural roadways closed due to downed trees and homes without electricity.
Power outages were ongoing on Friday, stated Miller while in the process of taking in the damage at the Covalt Road farm of Ben Lewis. The major farming operation off Timber Ridge Ridge Road had a severely damaged pole building as well as three-quarters of a barn roof missing.
Needmore residents Robert and Leslie Johns reported Friday morning that electricity to their home located along Gem Bridge Road was not expected to be restored until as late as Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, power was intermittent throughout Thursday evening and the following morning until electricity was restored ahead of schedule by Friday following lunch. Having needed fuel for their generator once the storm had subsided, the Johns family observed West Penn Power crews that worked throughout the night and in the inclement weather.
While the Johns family was obtaining fuel Thursday night, Fulton County Community Christian School valedictorian Victoria Tomlinson, salutatorian Andrea Leedy and fellow Class of 2011 graduates Kenneth Lininger and Caleb Meyers were treated to a memorable experience. The lack of electricity left the graduates, their family and school staff with no other choice but to conduct baccalaureate services by candlelight.
Nearby Southern Fulton Elementary, headed by district Superintendent Kendra Trail, experienced ongoing issues on Friday. Even with power being intermittent, school officials opted not to cancel classes for the day as plenty of running water was available to students.
According to Trail, who surveyed the district-wide damage immediately following the storm, of the 16 available skylights only three were not damaged. Furthermore, the buildings sustained numerous broken windows from falling hail, and the roof of a baseball dugout was ripped from the structure and blown 30 to 40 feet away.
Local farmer Marlin Lynch was still surveying damage on Friday and gave updates on the storm that took him by surprise as he was on the farm tractor. Lynch, of Buck Valley Road, Warfordsburg, stated his son, Karlin, came to fetch him with an ominous message there was a bad storm brewing. Unfortunately, the father and son didn’t make it home before the storm swept over them. Lynch stated they managed to pull in as close as possible to a large barn at Wilkins Farm & Home Supply along Buck Valley Road and waited the storm out.
“It was like driving on a bed of ice and about two inches of leaves were on the roadway,” said Lynch. The metal on his son’s truck as well as the windshield were destroyed, but their farm was fortunate enough to escape damage aside from some trees and plants in the garden.
In driving through the area Friday, Lynch stated the damage was pretty widespread and hardly a house escaped the wrath of the storm in Warfordsburg. It wasn’t only houses that fell prey to the storm, however, as the Warfordsburg Presbyterian Church and Faith Center had multiple broken windows on one side as well as three to four inches of hail lying inside the vestibule. Shards of glass were also reportedly found inside stuck in nearby drywall.
George Johnson, who resides across from the church, was riding his motorcycle home from work in Hagerstown, Md., when the storm struck. He had almost gotten home when the wind and hail knocked him from his bike. Fortunately, Johnson only suffered bruises in the accident.
Former county commissioner candidate Joseph Hagerty and his wife, Mary, reported having encountered mostly hail in the area of Stoneybreak Road. “We were blessed that we only had two trees fall across our driveway, and the power was out for only four hours,” said Mary. “The power company employees were amazing!”
Magisterial District Judge Carol Jean Johnson and her husband, Lee, were astonished at the damage of the storm that swept over Timber Ridge Road. “We had hail the size of softballs. I thought when people said that they were exaggerating, but now I know it’s true. The end of our house and our garage almost have more holes than siding. Lee’s old truck is beat up pretty badly. All in all we are lucky. We still have our lives and a home,” Johnson stated.
County clerk Dan Swain Jr., of Thompson Road, heading in the direction of Hancock, Md., said his mother’s vinyl spouting was knocked full of holes. “It was completely destroyed and unusable because of the holes. The biggest at my place was slightly bigger than golf balls,” said Swain, who videoed the hail as it fell. He believes the size of the hail increased as the storm continued travelling northeast, and noted he saw photos depicting baseball-sized hail from Big Cove Tannery.
“Everyone is saying that they’ve never witnessed anything like this. I know I certainly haven’t,” he concluded.
Working at a bank in Hancock, Md., Joyce Deluca said many of her fellow tellers reside in Warfordsburg and she has also seen photos showing hail the size of baseballs.
“I thought for sure she was exaggerating, but once I saw the pictures, I had to agree,” she said. “I drove home that night by the way of Timber Ridge Road, and my jaw was hitting the ground. Houses have holes all in the front of them, windows blown out and windshields knocked out of their vehicles. One homeowner had put duct tape over all of the hail holes, and I swear it looked like a checkered print.
“One of my customers said that they were building on a new room, which was under roof and the drywall was up and painted. A piece of hail came through the roof, and all of the rain came pouring into their new addition,” stated Deluca. Meanwhile, back at the Delucas’ home on Pleasant Ridge Road, husband Mike only witnessed some rain and a “beautiful” lightening storm.
While EMA officials surveyed the lower end of the county and power crews worked diligently on restoring power, local volunteer firefighters were also busy throughout the night Thursday. J.R. Sigel, chief at Needmore Volunteer Fire Co., stated trees, debris and downed wires had closed down multiple roadways, including Timber Ridge, Wolf Hollow, Buck Valley, Delancy, South Hess and Covalt. With help from Hustontown, Hancock and McConnellsburg as well as the Hancock Rescue Squad, the companies were able to clear many of the roadways and respond to calls involving structure damage, smoke in a building and multiple trees on wires that had ignited.
“We’d like to thank those companies for their dedication in our time of need. To us that is true brotherhood,” noted Sigel.