Damaging winds blow through Zion area

Crews repair lines Friday that were damaged by high winds Thursday night in Zion.
Crews repair lines Friday that were damaged by high winds Thursday night in Zion. CDT photo

Wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph caused a power outage to about 4,000 buildings and damage to parts of Centre County on Thursday evening.

National Weather Service meteorologist Elyse Hanger said that, despite public suspicion of a tornado near Zion, the damage was caused by straight-line winds.

“From what we can tell by radar it was a straight-line wind event, and a lot of times in this area it can cause more damage than a tornado,” Hanger said. “There is a misconception that if there is damage it was a tornado, but that’s not always the case. We’re looking at 60 to 70 mph gusts, and tornadoes really aren’t always as strong. Tornadoes can have winds equal to or even a little lower than straight-line wind events.”

West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers said about 4,000 buildings in Zion, Lamar and Mackeyville had power knocked out at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

“What happened was some straight-line winds came through and in less than a mile 10 utility poles, most of them adjacent to each other, had their tops sheered 10 to 15 feet off the ground and look like stubs standing up,” Meyers said. “The more common scenario is trees are blown into wires and sometimes snap off the tops of poles, but not this.”

Power was restored to about 1,500 buildings by about 9 p.m.; 2,000 by 11 p.m.; and all but about 70 early Friday morning, Meyers said. Seven homes were expected to be without power until about 8 p.m. Friday.

Meyers said line crews from Reading-based Metropolitan Edison, Penelec and West Penn Power crews from other areas were called in to put up new poles Friday. He said about 40 linemen with more than 20 trucks put up the new poles.

Hanger said most reported damage was concentrated in Zion with, in addition to downed utility poles, trees and wires down, a transformer going through a mobile home and a roof off a barn.

She said trees and wires were down in Lyonstown and that hail was reported near Stormstown.