Officials, residents still assessing tornado, storm damages
WINTERSVILLE — A walk down Bantam Ridge Road Friday morning revealed the huge impact of the powerful tornado that winded its way through buildings, yards and roadways Thursday night.
John Parker, director of the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency, said, “At least 29 residences were affected, but the most important thing is, we had no serious injuries.”
Parker said many property owners were busy contacting their insurance providers and it appeared that many were covered.
The fate of a family living in a home that lost nearly all of its roof as well as its garage wasn’t clear, though a neighbor said he heard they were able to obtain temporary shelter Friday night.
Another home not far away lost part of its roof and sustained other heavy damage.
Parker said he wasn’t aware Friday of anyone seeking somewhere to stay.
He said staff with the National Weather Service had been dispatched to the area to gather information about the tornado’s path in an effort to classify its severity.
Many residents could be found outside their homes Friday morning surveying the aftermath, which ranged from normally towering trees leaning against homes or laying across yards to overturned play equipment.
Resident Jim Howell pointed to a large storage building laying on its side. Lifted by the tornado, it and two lawn mowers and other equipment inside, it was carried about 10 feet from its previous location, he noted.
“I have seen big storms on TV and always thought, I’m glad I don’t live there. This time it was here,” he said.
Howell said he was sitting in the Wintersville McDonald’s when his wife called to tell him the roof had blown off their chicken coop before she took refuge in their basement.
Michael Mantos, pastor of Wintersville Community Chapel, said he was at his home, not far from the church when the tornado approached.
“I looked out the window. I saw debris start to form a circle and it sound like a freight train,” said Mantos, who added he and his family quickly headed for the basement.
Mantos pointed to singed flashing along an area of the church’s rear eaves. He explained it was the result of a fire sparked by lightning but quickly extinguished by local firefighters.
He pointed to a 2-by-4 board that was propelled through the building’s siding, leaving a hole in the interior wall.
And the pastor noted a patch covering a hole in the church’s roof left by an upper segment of a nearby power pole that was flung into it.
Mantos said crews with the power company came overnight to replace it.
Crews in bucket trucks were seen working on utility lines along Bantam Ridge Road.
Parker said at one point during the night more than 2,000 residents were without power but that number had dropped to fewer than 75 by Friday afternoon.
In addition to the efforts of the utility crews, Parker applauded Wintersville, Cross Creek Township and other emergency crews for their prompt response, including clearing fallen trees and branches from roadways and ensuring residents were safe.
“It’s one of those things where everyone did a fantastic job. It was a great team effort,” he said.
As of late Friday, a survey team report from the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh about the tornado that affected Wintersville was not available.
The survey team’s preliminary report on the tornado that caused damage in New Athens was released Friday evening, with the twister being determined to have been an EF-2 classification with wind speeds between 115 and 120 miles per hour.
The twister, the report said, lasted approximately 10 minutes, had a maximum width of 220 yards and had a path stretching some 2.7 miles.
The report said pieces of a damaged home’s roof were located 1.4 miles away from the home.
According to the report, the tornado started west of town and worked toward the town. The most notable damage, the survey team reported, occurred in the area of Culbertson Drive and McFarland Road.
(Staff writer Andrew Grimm contributed to this report)