MASON COUNTY — The winds blew through Mason County Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, causing damage to homes, property and utilities but there was no evidence a tornado touched down, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Matt Gregg, deputy director of the Mason County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said survey teams with the NWS were in Mason County Wednesday to examine areas affected by the storms. Gregg said the team found no evidence a tornado touched down though it does appear there were straight-line winds gusting an estimated 50 miles per hour during the weather event.
Gregg explained straight-line winds can have the appearance of a tornado and comprise a windstorm with no circular rotation, though it is “basically the hardest gust of wind you can imagine.” Though there was a report of seeing a funnel cloud in Mason County Wednesday, the NWS couldn’t find evidence that any touched the ground – a funnel cloud alone isn’t defined as a tornado but a funnel cloud touching the ground is, Gregg said.
According to the county division of homeland security, getting the brunt of the storm damage were Point Pleasant and Letart, with that damage including electric, cable and phone lines knocked down, trees tipped over, damaged homes/roofs and carports. A church steeple at 22nd Street in Point Pleasant came off its roof and a trampoline was caught in power lines near Point Pleasant Primary School. Luckily, there were no injuries, Gregg said, and the public heard the warnings about the storm and stayed home, hunkered down.
“That’s the best course of action when we have this type of weather event,” he said.
As mentioned earlier, the City of Point Pleasant saw some of the most damage. Mayor Brian Billings said city workers had been cleaning up storm debris on Wednesday.
“Many calls have been received here at the city building regarding the severe storm that hit our city Tuesday evening,” Billings said. “Our crews have been out helping to clear streets and pick up debris that has littered the area. I want to thank not only our city crews but the responders who were out first during the intense storm helping the many in need. We all should be very proud of these individuals and their quick action that helped to limit what could have been worse.”
The Point Pleasant Fire Department was reportedly fielding several storm-related calls throughout the evening Tuesday, as were other first responders. The Mason Fire Department also worked with the West Virginia Division of Highways in responding to a mudslide along W.Va. 62 in West Columbia, according to the division of homeland security.
Gregg said it’s estimated anywhere from 1.8 to 2.1 inches of rain fell in Mason County Tuesday, depending on where a person lived. This produced some flash flooding along some creeks and streams. However, as of Wednesday afternoon there were no reports of any road closures in the county. Gregg added the Ohio River has been running high for several months, and according to the NWS, it is predicted to crest at 42 feet, two feet above flood stage at Point Pleasant, possibly early Friday.
Gregg also urges those affected by the storm to be mindful of any downed utility lines and not to touch them – call 911 if spotted. Also be on the lookout for hidden damage from fallen tree limbs when it comes to those limbs hitting gas lines. With residents turning their furnaces back on during cooler weather, he suggested checking carbon monoxide detectors to be sure the utility was functioning. If not, Gregg said residents should call 911 to report it.
As of Wednesday afternoon, around 381 customers of Appalachian Electric Power Company were without electricity in Mason County following the storms.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.