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Schuylkill County News

Presumed Tornado Rips Through Mahanoy City Monday Night

National Weather Service will be in Mahanoy City Tuesday to confirm a tornado.

Video provided by Anthony Blackwell Jr.

A presumed tornado ripped right though one portion of the main drag of Mahanoy City on Monday night.

Incredibly, there are no reported injuries.

However, emergency officials and eyewitnesses to the storm confirm that several roofs have blown off their buildings and there is widespread damage to buildings mostly on the west side of the borough.

Siding from buildings blocks away was blown in front of the Mahanoy City senior hi-rise during Monday’s probable tornado. (Coal Region Canary photos)

A disaster declaration has been issued by both the borough of Mahanoy City and neighboring Mahanoy Township.

Power outages, mostly limited to a a few blocks of W. Centre St. in Mahanoy City have been reported. Crews from PPL Electric remain on the scene late into Monday night and Tuesday morning working to restore power there.

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A crew from PPL Electric makes the rounds in Mahanoy City Monday night.

The storm response was handled nearly entirely by Mahanoy City emergency officials (fire, police, and EMS) as well as borough officials. No outside fire departments from around Schuylkill County were dispatched to the scene.

Probable Tornado Damages Buildings in Mahanoy City

National Weather Service has not officially declared the storm that hit the Mahanoy City area on Monday was a tornado. Fire officials say that NWS had confirmed a tornado earlier Monday night.

However, a preliminary storm survey is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday in the affected areas and a final determination on what exactly hit Mahanoy City is expected Tuesday afternoon.

From the looks of the videos, it definitely appears to be a tornado.

The storm struck the area at about 7:45 on Monday night.

Mahanoy Area School District Sustains “Severe” Damage

The Mahanoy Area School District building at the far west end of the borough sustained “severe” roof damage, according to Dave Truskowsky, the public information officer for Mahanoy City Fire Dept.

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He also said several windows around the school building were damaged.

Classes were cancelled at Mahanoy Area on Tuesday.

“Bricks and Siding Everywhere”

Panels were ripped off the facade of this business in downtown Mahanoy City during Monday’s storm.

Around the borough, dozens of people joined emergency responders in picking up debris around Mahanoy City after the storm moved through the area.

Several roofs were ripped from their buildings during the storm, Truskowsky said. Siding was ripped off walls and sent flailing through the air, according to several eyewitnesses who spoke to The Canary on Monday night.

“There’s bricks all over the place and siding everywhere,” Truskowsky said.

Of the buildings that had their roofs torn off, Truskowsky said all of them were vacant at the time of the storm.

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One half of the large Dollar General sign in the 700 block of W. Centre St. was ripped out and sent flying about 100 feet into a nearby backyard.

Much of the most severe damage was limited to an area from the 900 block to the 500 block of W. Centre St. in Mahanoy City. However, damage was reported across other parts of the borough, too, including the traffic light at Centre and Main streets being twisted.

Trees were also reported down in several parts of the borough, including numerous trees on railroad tracks running through the borough, parallel with Railroad St.

Eyewitnesses Describe the Storm Passing Through Mahanoy City

The Dollar General sign was mangled and partially torn apart during the worst of the presumed tornado in Mahanoy City on Monday night.

Although no injuries were reported from the probable tornado in Mahanoy City on Monday night, residents who experienced the storm first-hand were still left stunned by what had happened.

The Canary spoke with numerous people who live between the 800 and 600 blocks of W. Centre St., where most of the damage was reported on Monday night. Many described the same thing, a swirling cloud that whipped debris along its path, a loud sound, and wind so strong it felt as though they were getting pulled out of their homes.

The Proverbial Freight Train Sound

Mike Muzzey lives in the 800 block of W. Centre St., closest to where the storm first hit on Monday night.

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He said he was watching the news and his girlfriend, Sandy Stride, was folding laundry when they both heard the wind.

“I looked out and saw the swirl and said to my girlfriend, ‘You better get down in the basement’,” he said.

Muzzey said he saw roof getting torn off a building across the street and it blew up the street. He and Stride believe they were lucky to escape the worst of the damage caused by the likely tornado.

“I never thought I would witness one of these, not in this area. We missed it by 100 … 150 yards,” he said. “There’s wood all over my roof. My whole yard is filled with lumber.”

Although this couple escaped the worst of the damage from the storm, it shook them nonetheless.

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“When they say it’s a freight train sound … ,” Stride said, “It’s a freight train sound.”

Stride said what several other witnesses along the presumed tornado’s path relayed about the feel of the storm.

When she went to the window to see what Muzzey was talking about, she said, “I couldn’t shut the bathroom window quick enough. It was pulling and jerking.”

Motorcycle Picked Up and Put Down by Wind

Debris found its way between two parked vehicles on the 600 block of W. Centre St. during Monday’s storm.

Just down the road, in the 600 block of W. Centre and Railroad streets, more severe damage was reported by eyewitnesses to the storm.

George Brill lives in the 600 block of W. Centre St. He said he went to his front door to check out the oncoming storm. He also said the storm felt as if it were sucking him out of the house.

“It was pulling,” he said, adding that he held onto the door tightly trying to close it.

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“Before it came here, it was just picking up everything,” he said of the storm, which he watched approach his house. “It was swirling.” It just kept on going that way,” Brill said, pointing east.”

Brill said the wind was strong enough to pick his Harley Davidson motorcycle up off the ground about a foot and drop it on its side. Another vehicle of his parked across the street had wires down on it and some building debris between it and another vehicle.

Debris Everywhere

Across the street, Nancy Blackwell said she saw the storm’s wrath, including four roofs fly off their buildings.

“Debris was flying everywhere,” she said. “Our garbage cans were flying everywhere.”

Anthony Blackwell Jr. said the wind outside their home on W. Centre St. caused doors inside their home to start whipping open violently as the storm passed by.

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Felt Like He Was Getting Sucked Out of the Kitchen Window

Thomas Luddy points at the back of his home on Railroad St. Siding was ripped off of it during the storm.

Thomas Luddy said he was in the kitchen of his home on the 600 block of Railroad St. at the time the storm hit.

When the power went out, he went to the window and saw what he says was the tornado coming his way. He saw the Dollar General sign fly into a nearby backyard.

“I was almost getting sucked out the window,” Luddy said. “Everything in the kitchen went crazy. Thank God I got the window shut.”

The building where they rent sustained some moderate damage during the storm. Siding was ripped off the back of the building where he lives. Luddy believes there’s a hole in the roof, too.

Dollar General Sign Flies Into a Backyard; Kitten Unfazed

Jeanette McLaughlin shines her flashlight on the Dollar General sign that flew into her backyard at the height of Monday’s likely tornado.

Jeanette McLaughlin said she was watching TV with her cats when the storm hit. Her backyard is where the Dollar General sign ultimately landed during Monday’s storm.

While she didn’t see the storm touch down, McLaughlin said she looked out the window from her home in the 600 block of Railroad St. and saw the Dollar General sign blow into her back yard and saw a roof blow off a home nearby.

All this time, however, her young Siamese cat was sitting by a window and barely flinched, she said.

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“I heard the crash and the heavy winds and I saw the sign go and I’m thinking, ‘Oh crap, this is coming’,” McLaughlin said.

“I’ve lived here 46 years and never ever ever has this happened,” she said. “It’s crazy. It’s scary.”

Red Cross Establishes Warming Station

The American Red Cross responded to the storm in the aftermath on Monday night. A warming station was established at Citizens Fire Co. in the borough but as of about 11 p.m., no residents were taking advantage of that service.

County EMA Response

Schuylkill County’s Emergency Management Agency responded to the scene in Mahanoy City on Monday night with its mobile response vehicle, according to EMA Director John Blickley.

Schuylkill County’s 9-1-1 director Scott Krater responded to the scene and managed communications.

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Blickley said the County’s role in the storm response really begins on Tuesday. He said EMA will be with the National Weather Service to conduct storm damage assessment.

“That’s really when our main part is going to take place other than some coordination of resources,” Blickley said.

FEATURED PHOTO CAPTION: Part of the sign on the Dollar General store in downtown Mahanoy City flew into Jeanette McLaughlin’s backyard.

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