NWS, EMA: Heat, humidity caused Saturday storms

BROOKVILLE — It wasn’t a tornado or a microburst, just high, straight-line winds, the result of severe thunderstorms that caused widespread property damage in the Sykesville/Henderson Township area Saturday.

Two separate severe thunderstorms warnings were issued for Jefferson County, the first at 4:45 p.m., the second at 6:15 p.m., according to Tracy Zents, director of emergency services for Jefferson County.

Zents said he consulted with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, which determined that the storm damage was caused, in part, by straight-line winds sustained at 60 mph.

He said Fred McMullen, warning coordination meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said the low-level humidity and heat from the day led to the development of these storms.

“The combination of abundant low-level humidity and daytime heating led ahead of a cold front dropping south from the Great Lakes led to the development of thunderstorms Saturday afternoon,” McMullen said.

Hail the size of quarters was observed as well, he said.

Damage assessment teams were dispatched Saturday evening and Sunday to collect information on what impact the storm had, Zents said.

He said residents were out Sunday cleaning up from the storm, along with many neighbors who pitched in when their own property wasn’t damaged.

Thirty-two structures were affected by Saturday’s thunderstorms that ripped through the area, leaving more than 1,200 people without power, he said.

Since then, power has been restored for all residents, and clean-up continues, Zents said.

Four residential homes sustained major damage.

“Several homes had parts of their roofing blown off, while others had trees crash down on them, puncturing holes within the roof and breaking roof joists,” Zents said.

He said 26 other homes sustained minor damage or were affected by downed trees and lines.

Saturday’s power outages also affected the Sykesville Fire Department and the Sykesville Sewage Treatment Facility, but generators were deployed to keep operations running.

Zents said the fire station was utilized as a command post to coordinate the response of all agencies.

“This storm was very unique because it hit only a certain area of the county and then moved into Clearfield County,” Zents said. “Only a few communities were hit. The damage could have been a lot worse.”

There were no injuries reported.