2012-10-24 / Local & State

Tornado Confirmed On Pa. Pavilion Collapse

PARADISE, Pa. (AP) – Authorities have confirmed that it was a tornado that blew through central Pennsylvania and caused a pavilion to collapse at a park, injuring 15 people and causing millions of dollars damage.

The EF-1 tornado touched down shortly after 8 p.m. Friday and over the next 10 minutes traveled about 16 miles from Fern Glen to Paradise in Lancaster County packing maximum winds of 100 to 110 mph, the National Weather Service said Sunday.

Officials said several dozen people attending a baseball game near Paradise sought shelter at the 40-foot by 40-foot pavilion, but high winds caused the structure to collapse. Police said 10 to 12 people were injured but the weather service put the injury total at 15. Authorities said most of the injuries were minor; one person had a broken bone.

The tornado damage was sporadic and embedded within a larger area of straight-line wind damage,” weather observers said.

Officials said 50 structures were damaged, including several barns destroyed, and two small high tension towers and thousands of trees were toppled. The county emergency management office estimates damage at $3 million to $5 million.

In Drumore Township, high-tension electrical towers bent to the ground left about 30,000 PPL customers without power, towers that PPL spokesman Jim Nulton said were designed to hold up during heavy snow and strong winds.

“It had to be pretty horrific,” he told the (Lancaster) Sunday News.

Bonnie Henry told the paper that her Strasburg Township home was spared but the winds snapped off trees and collapsed a nearby barn.

“We never heard anything like that before,” she said of the loud wind.

The tornado, which was up to 200 yards wide, wasn't on the ground the entire time, officials said.

“It more or less bounced up and down,” said Randy Gockley, director of the county emergency management agency.

He and agency spokesman Duane Hagelgans inspected the damage Saturday and said the groundlevel view initially indicated damage due to straightline winds. The view from above, however, told a different story.

“There were a lot of hills and valleys, places that weren't easily accessible,” Gockley said. “But we were able to get two meteorologists up in a helicopter and they saw overwhelming evidence – pockets where there was definite rotational damage.”

Gockley told the paper that no one reported having actually seen the twister, but he's not surprised.

“Considering the rain coming down so heavy and that it was nighttime, it would've been extremely difficult for anyone to see it,” he said.

He said it was an unusual time of year for a tornado, and no warnings or watches had been issued, not even for a thunderstorm.

“There was nothing to indicate something of this magnitude was coming,” Gockley said. “But Mother Nature has a mind of her own, I guess.”

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