Storm recovery continues

LISBON – The village continued to clean up following Wednesday’s severe thunderstorm that uprooted and splintered more than 100 trees, leaving streets blocked and damaging more than 20 homes

“I think first responders and all of the people who have helped can agree that we’re fortunate we had no fatalities,” said Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency Director Luke Newbold.

Matthew Kramar, a meterologist with the National Weather Services’ office in Pittsburgh, determined the storm that struck the Lisbon area about 5 p.m. was a downburst and not a tornado, as some speculated.

A downburst is a strong downward draft of wind that can reach very high speeds, and Kramar said the data indicates Wednesday’s downburst reached speeds of up to 80-90 mph.

“They can be just as strong as a tornado, if not stronger, and cause the same amount of damage, if not more,” he said.

Kramar reached this conclusion after reviewing the radar data that showed no wind rotation at the time and inspecting the damaged areas of Lisbon with Newbold on Thursday morning. Damage patterns can help indicate the type of storm.

Meanwhile, Mayor Dan Bing and county commissioners both issued disaster declarations for Lisbon, which is the first step needed before the state and federal EMAs can determine whether the community is eligible for emergency assistance.

To qualify for assistance, there must be at least 25 homes lacking insurance that sustained major damage. While 20 to 25 homes were damaged, Newbold said a preliminary assessment determined only about two or three sustained major damage. That could change, however, as volunteer damage assessment teams continue going door to door today.

More than 300 Ohio Edison customers in the hard-hit west side of town remained without power as of press time, including the Morning Journal, which continued to operate on limited auxiliary power for a second straight day.

Village Street Supervisor Jim Oliver estimated more than 100 trees were knocked over or damaged during the storm, which included lightning and hail. Lisbon was assisted yesterday in its clean-up efforts by the city of Columbiana street department, local tree cutting businesses, church groups and others.

“There’s been a lot of volunteers. I don’t even know all their names,” he said.

Newbold indicated more help is on the way. The county engineer’s office and Ohio Department of Transportation will provide work crews today, and the cities of East Liverpool and Salem have also been asked to send manpower and equipment to help clear Lisbon streets and properties of downed trees and limbs.

Newbold said HMS Recycling, located in the Lisbon Industrial Park, is accepting storm-related debris, such as linoleum, wood, brick, shingles and other building materials. No personal items will be accepted. Residents can also set tree debris along the curb for pick up.

Meanwhile, four village residents remain at the Red Cross shelter set up at the Lisbon United Methodist Church. They were forced to evacuate after an uprooted tree tore up a gas line in the alley between West Lincoln Way and West Washington Street, resulting in a minor leak. The gas was turned off, but the residents were told to leave until the line was repaired.

While downbursts are fairly common, the NWS’ Kramar said the fact this storm came almost directly out of the south was unusual. It appeared to follow state Route 164 into town, with storm damage beginning about a mile south of the village. Although Leetonia and communities as far away as Mahoning County also reported downed trees, he said the worst of the downburst appears to have been concentrated on Lisbon.

A downburst results when cold air descends from the middle and upper levels of a thunderstorm. As the descending cold air strikes the earth, the wind begins to roll and in the process becomes compressed, causing the wind speed to accelerate.

When asked about eyewitness accounts of wind rotation associated with tornadoes, Kramar said wind rotation is common in any volatile movement of clouds and can often appear to be a funnel cloud.

Newbold said they have been overwhelmed by the response from volunteer groups and individuals.

“I cannot stress enough how thankful the mayor and commissioners are for all the volunteers,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Bing. “Hopefully, we’ll have this cleaned up by the weekend,” he said, adding, “By golly, everyone’s been so helpful.”