Storm damage from down burst

EAST LIVERPOOL – A storm that blew through the area Tuesday was not a tornado, but the next best thing to one.

Liverpool Township Fire Chief Mike Bahen met Wednesday morning with a field team from the National Weather Service out of Pittsburgh, county Emergency Management Agency Director Luke Newbold and county Commissioner Tim Weigle to assess damage caused by the storm that produced torrential rain and hail, ripped trees out by the roots and caused power outages which left some residents without electric until well into Wednesday evening.

The NWS has declared the storm a down burst, which Bahen said is “the next level from a tornado,” with estimated winds of 80-90 miles per hour. It left a one-mile path from Thompson Park to the Dewey Avenue area.

The determination was made after Bahen escorted the NWS and EMA officials through the township, especially the Dixonville area that was hardest hit and the park, which also suffered major damage.

Electric companies were on the scene throughout the evening Tuesday and Wednesday, with Bahen saying he had seen six or seven AEP trucks on the job, with most of Dixonville restored to power Tuesday night.

Work was continuing on the Ambrose Avenue and Armstrong Lane areas Wednesday afternoon, where power was still out, according to Bahen.

Although AEP did not return a message for comment, its website indicated 108 customers remained without power as of last afternoon, and some residents said they had been advised power would be restored by midnight.

At Thompson Park, Superintendent J.C. Blackhurst kept park gates closed Wednesday so only foot traffic could enter and also restricted walkers to the upper circle to safeguard them from any additional falling trees or branches.

Blackhurst said he expects to keep the gates closed for today and possibly even Friday due to the large number of fallen trees littering the park.

“We still have hanging limbs and trees, better safe than sorry,” Blackhurst said of his decision to limit traffic through the park, although he said he expected walkers to not be restricted to the upper circle as of today.

He and other park employees spent the day Wednesday cutting up trees that had blocked the streets through the park.

Parkway between the park and Elysian Way remained closed to traffic Wednesday due to a large tree that fell and was being held in place by utility lines and another tree in the yard of park board member Betsy Wells.

City street crews spent time cutting some of the limbs off the tree during the day, and Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell said late Wednesday he had not had a chance to speak with anyone about the situation so had no immediate comment on how the tree will be removed.

Mayor Jim Swoger was distraught at the damage he found at the municipal pool, which he has taken on as a project in recent years, saying there were trees in the pool as well as damage to an awning.

“I just about cried when I saw it,” Swoger said, adding, “I’m out of money (for pool operations).”

When the storm hit just after 5 p.m. Tuesday night, firefighters responded immediately to reports of downed trees and lines, and Bahen said, “Everything fell into place. Everybody went where they were needed. The guys knew what to do.

“There is a lot of cleanup,” Bahen agreed, saying individual home owners are responsible for ridding their properties of the aftermath, which in some cases included trees that toppled onto homes.

He said it is now up to Liverpool Township Trustees to apply to the federal government for any emergency assistance to help with the cost of the storm response.