WELLSBURG — A line of severe storms caused damage across the Tri-State Area between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m., Wednesday.
Among the damages locally was a 180-year-old former toll house near the entrance to Brooke Hills Park that collapsed under the force of the high winds.
Jason Frazier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Moon Township office, was asked whether a tornado could have been responsible for its destruction.
Frazier, who had heard about the fallen building, said it was likely caused by straight-line winds, which are common in thunderstorms and called such because they don’t rotate as tornadoes do.
He acknowledged thunderstorms can produce microbursts, or columns of sinking air with tremendous force, but they result from isolated circumstances.
Frazier said the wind that struck areas of Brooke County were part of a pattern the National Weather Service tracked with radar from Guernsey County, Ohio, to Allegheny County, Pa.
He said the speed of the wind moving through that area is believed to have peaked between 70 to 90 miles per hour.
“Even though it (the wind) is not a tornado, it can still do tornado damage,” said Frazier.
Unoccupied, the single-story structure was home for many years to a local official who collected fees from many farmers and others who traveled a toll road between Washington, Pa., and Wellsburg.
Sections of the road later became part of what is now state Route 27.
The West Virginia University Extension Service had secured funds to replace its deteriorating foundation and sections of roof, add new wood siding and install new windows and doors.
Park officials at one time considered establishing a visitors center or gift shop in it but abandoned those plans and interior renovations weren’t completed.
Asked whether the storm was spurred by the recent hot weather, Frazier said high humidity is one of many factors that can produce a strong storm.
Frazier said a drop in temperatures is expected during the next few days because of cooler air moving in from the north.
The National Weather Service currently is predicting highs in the mid to upper 70s today through Saturday, with a 90 percent chance of rain today but a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain Friday and Saturday.
A high near 86 degrees is predicted for Sunday with no precipitation expected.
Wednesday’s storms prompted severe thunderstorm watches, warnings and flash flood warnings to be issued across the area by the National Weather Service throughout the afternoon hours.
At one point, First Energy reported as many as 3,596 customers without power in West Virginia, 2,329 of which were reported in Brooke County.
Between 21 and 100 outages were reported in the area of Brooke Hills Park where the building was destroyed.
In the southern end of Brooke County, between 500 and 1,500 outages were reported in the area south of Bethany, while an additional 101-500 outages were reported north of Bethany.
Another 101-500 outages were reported in the Arnold area near Sanders Hill Road and Brooke High School.
The storm caused other issues including traffic light outages. The traffic light at the intersection of state Route 2 and Cross Creek Road was one of many not working Wednesday afternoon.
On the Ohio side of the river, the Jefferson County 9-1-1 Center reported trees down on power lines in Mount Pleasant and in the Richmond area, but no major damage in the county.
American Electric Power reported 293 customers without power in the county at around 8 p.m., with as many as 10 outage sites reported in the county.
Hardest hit areas were at the southern end of the county, with 72 outages reported in the Adena area around 3 p.m. and, later in the afternoon, 58 outages were reported north of Rayland with 37 reported near Tiltonsville.
In the northern portion of the county, in the Osage area west of Knoxville, 59 outages were reported.
Other areas in Jefferson County with outages reported were near Piney Fork, the area of Green Acres and Swickards near Wintersville and the Pleasant Hill and LaBelle areas in Steubenville.
In Harrison County, AEP reported as many as 75 customers without power and three outage cases.
At the peak of the outages just prior to 3 p.m., more than 6,400 outages were reported by AEP across the state of Ohio.
Surrounding counties also experienced severe weather with reports of flooding, damages and power outages.