Storms Blast State, High Winds Follow
Undated (AP) _ Gale-force winds and thunderstorms blasted across the state Tuesday, knocking down trees and causing widely scattered damage.
Behind the swift cold front, sustained winds and dropping temperatures promised to make it seem more like January.
Early in the morning wind gusts to 87 mph were reported in Gettysburg when the front passed. Gusts of 70 mph were reported in Harrisburg and 90 mph in Lancaster.
Linda Dressler went to close the fronts doors at Herr’s Office Products when the storm hit in downtown Lancaster, but she couldn’t fight the blast of air from an open garage door at the back of the building.
″I couldn’t even hold it shut, the wind was so strong going through the store,″ she said.
That was when the display window shattered.
″All of a sudden, it blew up, blew out. There was glass everywhere,″ she said.
Across the street, Rick Wise watched as an 8-by-10 foot window blew out at the Video 54 store.
″You could hear the windows just actually rattling and after awhile, just one big crash,″ he said.
People reported sighting funnel clouds in Lackawanna and Wayne counties, but the National Weather Service said it would take time to confirm any sighting. A report of a tornado sighting in Lancaster County was incorrect, the weather service said.
The weather service posted a tornado watch early in the morning, meaning conditions were right for the formation of tornados. It discontinued the watch at 12:45 p.m., however.
Up and down the eastern half of the state, furious storms hit some communities and bypassed others. Where they hit, damage was severe:
-Gusts reportedly pushed over a utility pole in Colerain Township, Lancaster County, igniting the roof of a house.
-A barn was picked up and deposited on the east lane of U.S. Route 322, near Blue Ball, Lancaster County, according to an eyewitness. The barn contained farm machinery, including a tractor.
-A tractor trailer overturned near the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange at Route 222.
-In Northumberland County, fierce winds blew through a mobile home park outside of Watsontown, ripping aluminum skirts off the bases of eight trailers and pulling one off its foundation. Several sheds were damaged and one was crushed.
″It had the look of a tornado because it only went through the middle of the trailer park,″ said Lamar Runkle Sr., spokesman for the Delaware Township Emergency Management Agency. The park was devastated by a May 1985 tornado.
-The storms threw a trailer home off its foundation near Pine Grove, Schuylkill County. Three miles south of Summit Station, power lines were blown down, blocking Route 183 for a short time just before 11 a.m.
-John C. Bolschi, Mill Creek Manor, Schuylkill County, returned home Tuesday morning to find that a 40-foot willow tree in his front yard had been snapped by the storm. It took down his home’s rain gutters and electrical box, plus several hundred feet of utility lines.
Bolschi found the whole mess strewn across his front yard and driveway.
″I used to think I was lucky, but when I got home I was in for quite a surprise,″ said Bolschi, a night-shift security guard. ″I looked down the street and it looked like my house was the only one hit.″
-Lackawanna County Emergency Management officials said they had unconfirmed reports of a tornado in Moosic. Several roofs were blown off and trees were uprooted in the area. Roofs also were blown off in Dickson City and windows were blown out at a restaurant in Taylor.
Winds at the Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport at Avoca were officially clocked at 74 miles per hour. A Cessna 150 flipped over from the runway onto a fence.
A double whammy ripped through western Pennsylvania, with a spring-like thunderstorm followed just hours later by a chilling snowstorm.
Winds reached 66 mph in Marianna, Washington County, and 64 mph at the Jefferson County Airport, the weather service said. The wind blew out a plate glass window in Punxsutawney.
″What we had was a big storm system from the south that roared up the Ohio River valley through Pittsburgh into southwestern New York,″ said Victor Nouhan, a weather service forecaster.
″Behind that came a lot of colder air, very fast moving and very strong,″ Nouhan said.
The temperature at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport dropped from 51 degrees at 8 a.m. Tuesday to 33 degrees two hours later.
Nouhan predicted 10 more days of subfreezing temperatures in southwestern Pennsylvania.
″I don’t see any break ahead,″ he said.
About 2,500 students in the Forest Hills School District in Cambria County went home early after winds caused a power outage at a middle school.
Five to 10 inches of snow were expected on Interstate 80 in north-central Pennsylvania by Wednesday morning.
About 1,000 homes in Washington County were without power Tuesday morning after winds knocked down power lines.
″The wind is our biggest enemy in these things, much more so than the lightning,″ said Edward Sehon, a Duquesne Light spokesman.
According to the weather service, Wednesday should be much colder in all sections of the state, with wind chills around zero and below. Snow showers in the west should taper to flurries by afternoon in most locations.
A new Alberta Clipper will bring the commonwealth another chance of snow Wednesday night and Thursday and will usher in even colder arctic air.
Highs Wednesday will in the mid teens to lower 20s in the west, in the 20s and lower 30s in the east. Lows Wednesday night will be 5 to 15 across the state, with periods of snow statewide but more likely in the east.
Thursday will be mostly cloudy with morning snow tapering off to snow showers in the east and just a chance of snow showers in the west. It will be bitterly cold, with highs from 10 to 20.
Friday through Sunday are forecast to remain cold, with a chance of snow light snow each day. Highs will range from 15 to 25, lows from zero to 15 above.