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Officials: Sunday storm strong and fast-moving

The storm that blew in around church time Sunday caught mostpeople off guard, even if they were aware that the county was undera severe thunderstorm warning.

“It came through pretty quick,” said Sheriff Steve Rushing.”From what dispatch told me, by the time we got notice it was goingto hit the county it was here.”

Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said thestorm system, which has left people all over Brookhaven and LincolnCounty without power into Monday, was not just fast, it wasstrong.

“It hit us quite quickly,” he said. “The city had some prettygood damage over in the South Jackson Street area.”

Galey said first estimates show the city and county together hadbetween 40 and 50 roads blocked by downed trees throughout the daySunday.

Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson said counts after thestorm showed around 31 trees down in the city, with approximatelyhalf of them falling on power lines. Henderson said he had to callin additional officers to help block the roads and keep motoristssafe.

“It was pretty rough on us,” Henderson said. “But we wereblessed that it hit us during the daylight hours because peoplecould see the trees down during the daylight. Night time is whenyou have to get barriers out and everything because people can’tsee the trees in the road until it’s too late.”

Thankfully, Galey said, there were no injuries, but at least 20homes were reported damaged throughout Brookhaven and LincolnCounty. There were still areas where trees containing power linesblocked roads as of Monday morning.

“We did take some complaints about trees being down that peoplethought we weren’t doing anything about, but they were wrapped upin power lines,” Galey said. “We don’t allow city and countyworkers or emergency workers to mess with those trees until thepower companies can come certify that there’s no power inthere.”

Galey said at this stage of the game he is waiting on theNational Weather Service to tell him exactly what kind of storm hitBrookhaven. However, from what he has seen, he expects to hearthere were straight-line winds involved.

“The National Weather Service makes that determination, but justlooking at it, most all the trees are laying the same way,” hesaid. “And most of the time if everything’s laying the same way, itmeans you’ve had straight-line winds.”

But Franklin County Civil Defense Director Mark Thornton saidbefore the system hit Lincoln County, it was in his neck of thewoods. He said while he’s waiting on the National Weather Serviceto confirm his suspicions too, the extensive damage in his countylooks to him to be the work of a tornado.

“It was a tornado, and that’s my opinion. We had people that sawit and heard it. I know there were some people up at Eddiceton thatsaw it and heard it,” he said. “But there in Meadville it was somehuge pine trees and oak trees that were twisted off, thatdefinitely wasn’t straight-line winds.”

Franklin County had about 17 buildings damaged, with the bruntof the onslaught being felt in Meadville.

The carnage stretched from the lower western corner of thecounty to the northeast corner. Thornton said county residentsweren’t prepared for the weather because it hit so fast.

“We had some people that were fussing because the sirens weren’tsounding, but we were only under a severe thunderstorm warning,” hesaid. “We never had a tornado warning put out, and don’t sound thesirens unless it was a tornado warning.”

Other area officials said they dodged most of the damage fromthe storm system.

“We didn’t have any residential damage or anything like that,all we had was a tree that fell on the power line,” said WessonPolice Chief Chad O’Quinn. “But just south of us all the trees wereblown down on 51 north of Williams lake. We came out prettyfortunate.”

In Monticello, a house was damaged when a tree clipped a cornerof the roof, a mobile home had the roof torn off, and a city-ownedcamper trailer was destroyed. Otherwise things seemed to be undercontrol, said Monticello Fire Department Assistant Chief HughSummers.

Galey said he will take a conference call with the NationalWeather Service on Monday to determine if there will be any moreunpleasant weather coming through this week.

“The National Weather Service’s Web site says we might be in fora little more on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, but I’mwaiting on the conference call to let us know what to expect,” hesaid.