STEUBENVILLE - Matthew Marshall witnessed two large trees snap and fall onto his neighbor's front lawn Wednesday afternoon from his home on Wellesley Avenue in Steubenville.
"It almost seemed like a tornado. There were three or four back-to-back heavy, cracking gusts and both trees came down within one minute of each other," said Marshall. "The trunks of cars along the street were blowing open and it's just lucky that more cars weren't parked along the roadway."
And similar stories occurred across the city following the strong wind gusts, thunder and lightning and rain that swept through the area Wednesday.
POWER LINES DOWNED BY TREE — A large tree toppled onto power lines near the water tower at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Carnegie Street in Steubenville during Wednesday’s severe weather that caused power outages and multiple snapped utility poles.
Workers stood outside after being forced out of the PNC Bank building on Fourth Street due to power outages, which were sporadic throughout downtown.
Area residents also came out of their homes to survey the damage.
A large tree at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Carnegie Street toppled onto power lines near the water tower and blew a transformer, while multiple utility poles were snapped at the top due to the tension of the downed lines, according to officials.
Sarandos Tsouris of Maryland Avenue reported he saw sparks just before losing power.
"I watched the whole storm pass through from my window. Poles broke everywhere and the tree falling strained all of the lines," said Tsouris.
More damage struck at Lawrence Fernandez's Oregon Avenue home when the storm broke the glass surfaces of his back porch furniture.
"I was just watching television when I heard a big noise, so I got up and walked out back and there was shattered glass everywhere. My picnic table and other furniture was all over the place. I could even see the neighbor's windows blowing open. It was crazy," said Fernandez.
AEP officials reported today there are still more than 1,200 customers without service in Jefferson County. Repair work is in progress, but restoration isn't expected until later this evening, according to Jenna Nelson, a representative with AEP.
Officials with Mon Power, a FirstEnergy company that serves Hancock and Brooke counties, reported early today that 783 Follansbee area residents, 215 Wellsburg area residents and 116 residents of Weirton and Colliers were without power.
Residents in many other areas of Brooke and Hancock counties also were without power, and Mon Power officials expected service to be restored to most by early this evening and to all by late tonight.
Road crews and volunteer firefighters from several areas of Brooke County were involved in cleanup efforts following the storm.
Follansbee-area firefighters were kept busy with a fire in the Dalesio Manor apartment complex and clearing fallen trees and debris from roadways.
Follansbee Fire Chief Larry Rea said the fire originated in the generator room of the complex on the first floor, though the specific cause was unclear. He said the generator had been operating after the building lost power.
Firefighters from Follansbee and Hooverson Heights were able to contain the fire there and quickly extinguish it, Rea said.
Bob Fowler, Brooke County director of emergency management, said because smoke from the fire had spread through much of the building, it was evacuated as a precaution.
The building is home to about 50 people, many of them seniors and people with disabilities.
Fowler expressed thanks to the Follansbee Garibaldi Lodge for providing shelter to six residents and Brightwood Center Genesis Eldercare for providing shelter for three. He said other residents are staying with family.
Follansbee firefighters and crews with the West Virginia Division of Highways removed a tree from Allegheny Street near the Cline residence and west of the access road to the former Brooke County Animal Shelter. The tree fell from the south side of the road and onto a Jeep parked in front of the home.
A tree also fell onto the roof of a home on Neville Street, across a utility line on Garfield Way and on Rockdale Road.
A tree fell across a phone line on Mahan Lane, causing the driver of a westbound pickup truck to veer into a deep ditch on the south side of the road, but the driver was able to walk away from the accident. The situation blocked both directions of traffic on the road, and West Virginia State Police called for a tow truck to remove the truck and crews to address the tree and line.
Firefighters from Franklin Community and McKinleyville removed trees on Pearce Run Road, Buckey Hill Road and other roads in the Washington Pike area.
Joe Palko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township, said the first damage report came into the office around 2:15 p.m. Wednesday and indicated numerous trees down and 3/4-inch sized hail in some parts of Jefferson County.
He said the rain and storms came through in several batches, but that first round of storms caused the majority of the damage across the area.
Palko said Tomlinson Run in Hancock County received 2.91-inches of rain, while the area near Knoxville in Jefferson County received 2.23-inches. The combination of the hard ground from the recent drought-like conditions and the hard rain caused water to run off quickly onto streets, according to Palko.
Also, winds were reported to have reached 60-70 miles per hour Wednesday.
Palko said more storms could hit the area today between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., but they are not expected to be as severe. The rainfall between today and Friday could add up to another inch across the region, and weather is expected to dry out and become less humid Saturday and Sunday.