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MERCER Damage tells tale of two twisters



Published: Tue, April 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The storm left a hop, skip and jump damage pattern across the northern part of the county.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

MERCER, Pa. -- It wasn't one but two tornadoes that touched down Sunday in Mercer County.

The twisters actually came from the same storm front, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

The NWS sent a field investigation team into the county Monday to assess damage and determine if a tornado had passed through.

There had been reports of a twister, but James Thompson, director of the county's Department of Public Safety, said there were no eyewitness reports.

The field team made its assessment from damage the twisters left, he said.

A tornado, with wind speeds up to 72 mph, touched down in the Jefferson Township area but dissipated quickly as the storm moved east over Mercer borough at about 40 mph, Thompson said.

The storm front then reorganized a few miles to the east over the Coolspring Township area and formed a second tornado, packing winds estimated at 105 mph.

Thompson said the storm left a hop, skip and jump pattern of damage.

No injuries

He said that between 75 and 100 homes suffered varying amounts of damage during the storms but that no houses were destroyed and no injuries were reported.

A barn along state Route 965 near the Venango County line collapsed, and a garage on state Route 173 in Worth Township was destroyed, as was a large machine shed along Route 173 in that same area, Thompson said.

There were numerous reports of winds' damaging outbuildings and of fallen trees' blocking roads and damaging houses and other buildings, he said. Hermitage lost a 195-foot radio tower behind the Highland Avenue fire station. The high winds folded it nearly in half.

City Fire Marshal Robert Goeltz said no service was lost as the radio system, which carries the fire and police radio bands as well as other services, was immediately relayed to a backup system.

Penn Power Co. spokesman Randy Coleman said about 8,200 Mercer County customers lost service during the height of the storms. In Lawrence County, it was fewer than 1,500, he said.

Crews were working through the night, and all service was restored to all but about two dozen customers by about 5:30 a.m. today, he said.

Penn Power brought in crews from Ashtabula, Youngstown, Warren and New Castle to help replace downed lines, Coleman said.




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