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SHARPSVILLE Fire chief believes damage was caused by a tornado



Published: Fri, August 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The chief said there was a quarter-mile strip of devastation through a stretch of woods.

SHARPSVILLE, Pa. -- The South Pymatuning Township fire chief believes his community was hit by a tornado.

"I'm saying it's a tornado," Jerry Zahniser said this morning, referring to the storm that blew through Mercer County shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday.

The National Weather Service has yet to confirm his suspicions, he said.

Zahniser said a corner of the roof of Bortner Apartments on state Route 846 was blown off, and there were reports of a tree falling on a house on nearby Tamarack Drive. There were no injuries reported, he said.

The strongest evidence of a tornado is a swath of devastation through a quarter-mile stretch of woods off Tamarack Drive, he said.

"It looks like a battlefield," he said.

Jim Thompson, Mercer County Emergency Management Agency director, said a preliminary investigation indicated the damage may have been caused by straight-line, tornado-strength winds that could have hit 70 mph.

The NWS did report some spiral cloud motion in the area, so a tornado may have touched down, Thompson said, adding that he will inspect the site again today.

The Pennsylvania Power Co. reported that 6,800 customers lost electrical service in the storm, about 4,000 of them in the Sharpsville and Hermitage area.

A spokesman said about 500 were still without service early today but that all service was to be restored by 6 tonight.




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