CLARKSBURG — The National Weather Service has confirmed that it was in fact a tornado that struck near the Harrison County community of Salem on Friday.
“The location was four miles east-southeast of Salem, and the estimated time was around 7:58 p.m.,” Jonathan Wolfe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said. “It was an EF-1 with estimated wind speeds of 110 miles per hour. It was on the ground for 4.5 miles or so, and it had a maximum width of about 400 yards.”
The Harrison County twister, along with another confirmed on Friday night in Monongalia County by the National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh, are the first tornadoes of the year in West Virginia, according to Wolfe.
Typically, he said there are between one and three in the state per year.
Part of the analysis leading to the conclusion that the storm in Harrison County was a tornado, Wolfe said, was due to the nature of the damage encountered by the surveillance team sent to investigate Saturday.
“I think the barn sliding off of the foundation was one of the biggest findings,” he said. “Also that a small SUV was flipped over and healthy trees were snapped, those are indications of a strong wind — all of them resembled a tornado.”
Wolfe said the most extensive tree damage occurred around Old Davisson Run Road, and he noted that there was straight-line wind destruction seen before the tornado touched down.
“It dissipated about 3.7 miles west of Clarksburg,” Wolfe said of the tornado.
As of mid-Sunday afternoon, there were only 37 customers without power in Harrison County, according to FirstEnergy’s website, with 32 of those customers residing in Clarksburg. That’s less than 1 percent of the company’s customers served in the county.
Firefighter First Class Adam Pulice of the Clarksburg Fire Department said he didn’t see much damage in the Clarksburg area itself.
“I don’t really think we were hit all that hard with it here in town, to be honest,” he said. “It seemed like the biggest damage happened out west towards Sycamore, and then it skipped our area and went up north towards Fairmont and Morgantown.”
Lt. Ian Fitzpatrick, also of the Clarksburg Fire Department, said he did hear about some power outages, but said there weren’t a large number reported.
“I know the west end of town, some sections of Stealey, were without power for a bit,” he said. “We were out earlier and we saw some line clearance that some of those subcontractors for Mon Power were doing down around the area of Locust and Peck with some big boom trucks, clearing some trees from the line.”
Fitzpatrick said the fire department responded to seven calls in Clarksburg regarding downed trees and three calls relating to downed power lines as a direct result of the storm.
“A lot of trees down,” he said. “Not necessarily whole trees, but a lot of tops broke out of trees. And you see a lot of damage here and there that there weren’t calls on.”
Fitzpatrick said area residents appeared to respond well to the impending storm, with no severe injuries reported.
“I know my cellphone was going crazy with the emergency alert to give everyone a heads up,” he said. “A lot of times, you have false alarms here and there because they think something bad is going to happen, but in this case they foretold what was actually coming.”
by Wilson R. Harvey