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SEVERE STORMS Tornado strikes in Stark County



Published: Mon, April 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Weather service officials will visit Mercer County, Pa., today to determine whether a tornado touched down there.

STAFF/WIRE REPORTS

The National Weather Service has confirmed it was a tornado that cut a five-mile-long swath through Stark County in Northeast Ohio on Sunday, damaging numerous buildings but causing no deaths or serious injuries.

Meteorologist Will Kubina of the Cleveland weather service office said early today that a tornado touched down in Jackson Township near Canton at 1:58 p.m. Sunday.

Police said there were no deaths and only minor injuries from the storm, which left a path of destruction a quarter-mile wide.

Meteorologists determined whether it was a tornado based on the pattern in which the debris landed plus reports of funnel cloud sightings, the weather service's Red Blazer said.

Elsewhere, tornado-ravaged cities from Missouri to Maryland picked up the pieces today after an unusually wide and potent swath of thunderstorms weaved their way through the eastern half of the nation, killing at least six people.

In Mercer County

Between 70 and 100 homes in Mercer County, Pa., were damaged by high winds accompanying the storm that blew through the county, said James Thompson, director of both the county's 911 service and Emergency Management Agency.

Although there were reports of a tornado's touching down, Thompson said his agency hadn't found any eyewitnesses to a twister. However, the extent of damage made it appear as though winds over 100 mph hit in Worth Township and surrounding areas, so a tornado was possible, he said.

A barn along state Route 965 near the Venango County line, a garage on Pa. Route 173 in Worth Township and many outbuildings were destroyed, Thompson said.

Another farm on Route 173 lost a large machine shed and a nearby house lost pieces of its roof and much of its aluminum siding to high winds, he said.

Other problems

There were numerous reports of hail as well as uprooted trees and downed power lines around the county that temporarily closed roads. Thompson said power crews were still out today repairing lines.

Falling trees damaged homes and outbuildings and wind was reported to have pushed a mobile home in Jackson Center about five feet off its foundation, Thompson said.

An official said the National Weather Service will send workers to Mercer, Indiana and Butler counties today to determine if tornadoes touched down there Sunday afternoon.

Maryland was hit especially hard Sunday evening, with a tornado causing at least three deaths and 93 injuries in two counties south of the nation's capital. A twister caused serious damage to at least a 10-mile stretch of La Plata, Md., of about 6,500 -- even blowing windows out of the hospital.

Thunderstorms struck states throughout the Tennessee and Ohio valleys on Sunday. The northern edge of the system brought heavy snow to Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Much damage

Ed Cox, director of Stark County's Emergency Management Agency, said he estimates that at least 75 homes and nine businesses were damaged. One home was blown down. The two people inside were not seriously injured.

"As far as we have been able to determine, there were only those two minor injuries," Cox said this morning.

North Canton police Chief Mike Grimes said his city had trees down and windows out of some houses and businesses. "We sustained damage in a line through the city. The power went out for everybody in that section. But there were no injuries," he said.

About 300 people in North Canton were still without power last night, he said.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol post in Canton reported a fatal car crash in Jackson Township that resulted from traffic lights that were out because of the storm.

High winds and hail the size of golf balls damaged rooftops and cars throughout Ohio.




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