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Thunderstorm leaves behind significant damage in region

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington region took the brunt of a swift-moving thunderstorm that toppled large trees, peeled roofs from buildings and snapped power lines early Friday.

Strong wind gusts caused most of the reported damage, which left thousands of residents in Cabell and Wayne counties without power.

About 3,600 customers of American Electric Power in West Virginia were still in the dark Friday night, though that number was down from the 21,000 who were without power at the start of the day.

The power outages were concentrated in Cabell and Wayne counties, AEP spokesman Phil Moye said. Most customers should see power restored sometime Saturday, but some will have to wait until Sunday, he said.

More than 150 contracted workers were helping with the restoration effort Friday, and more were expected to arrive in the area Saturday, Moye said.

Several schools in Cabell, Wayne and Lincoln counties in West Virginia and Lawrence County, Ohio, were closed Friday because of no electricity. Employees at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Huntington District building and Cabell County Courthouse were greeted by dark offices when they arrived at work Friday morning.

The storm hit Huntington at approximately 2:15 a.m. Wind gusts reached 62 mph at Tri-State Airport, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

"It's pretty late in the year to see a storm this strong," weather service meteorologist Mike Zwier said. "A lot of times, these strong storms are convectively driven. But this storm was dynamically driven, which means the atmosphere already had a lot of wind in it. The rain that came with the storm pulled that wind to the ground and that's why we saw some damage."

Neighborgall Construction's general contracting office in the 1200 block of 7th Avenue sustained significant damage. Winds caved in a block wall on the second floor of the building and ripped off the roof.

"My first thought when I saw the damage was, 'We can fix that,' " company president C.R. Neighborgall said. "We had 12 guys here by 7:30 a.m. removing debris. We're just fortunate no one was hurt."

Winds uprooted a large tree at the southwest corner of 8th Street and 13th Avenue. The tree fell onto 8th Street and took two traffic signal poles with it. The intersection remained closed through Friday afternoon while utility crews worked to remove power lines from the tangled mess.

Jim Insco, assistant public works director for the city of Huntington, said city workers had removed tree limbs from 46 sites and cleared about a dozen roads that were blocked by downed trees Friday morning.

A two-mile stretch of Ohio 7 between Tallow Ridge Road and the 17th Street West Bridge in Lawrence County was closed until 8 p.m. Friday after power lines fell across the four-lane road.

In Kenova, dozens of gourds from Ric Griffith's Pumpkin House on Beech Street were scattered across his yard. Shelves of jack-o-lanterns set up for a lighted musical display tipped over during the storm along with some scaffolding.

"I went to bed with a nice-looking pumpkin display and woke up with what looked like a teenager's messy bedroom," Griffith said.

The Pumpkin House will remain open through the weekend, but about half of the pumpkins have been removed from the display because of the storm or because they have started to rot, Griffith said.

Besides the problems reported in Lawrence County in Ohio, outages were reported in the Cleveland area and throughout central Ohio, where some homes were damaged from the wind.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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