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NWS Investigating Funnel Cloud Reports

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(Photo Credit: Ben jackman)

(Photo Credit: Ben jackman)

Harold Hayes Harold Hayes
Harold Hayes joined KDKA-TV in August of 1979 as a general assignment...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The National Weather Service surveyed the damage in Butler County today after Wednesday night’s strong storms.

A Tornado Warning was issued for parts of Butler and Armstrong Counties around 6:45 p.m.

There were several reports of suspected funnel clouds forming, but the National Weather Service was trying to determine if any actually did touch down.

Matthew Kramar, of the National Weather Service, was armed with maps of the storm path, and followed them in his car.

He began in Columbiana County, Ohio, this morning, and made a determination about what happened in Ohio.

“We found with pretty good confidence that a downburst occurred, a microburst with winds of 80 miles per hour, possibly as high as 90 in a localized area near Lisbon, Ohio,” said Kramar.

Officials in Lisbon declared a state of emergency after three homes were destroyed and nearly two dozen others were damaged by Wednesday’s high winds spawned by the same storm system that later caused problems in Armstrong and Butler counties.

Locally, he looked at pictures captured by witnesses, as well as the neighborhoods themselves to figure out what exactly came through the area.

“The radar indicates rotation,” Kramar said. “And we don’t have a confirmation of a tornado or any damage, so what we can do is take where the radar thinks this rotation was, and we can go out and see if there actually was damage underneath it, and that’s what we’re doing today, kind of a reconnaissance mission if you will.”

It was about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Wexford. Andrea Winghart looked up, saw a funnel cloud and took a picture of it.

“And then everything around me started blowing around and it was lightning everywhere,” she said. “I could not describe it. It was insane.”

KDKA showed that picture to Matthew Kramar of the National Weather Service.

“In the case of that photo, it’s not clear that that damage was being caused at the ground,” he said. “There was a swirl of some sort, but beyond that, we don’t know if there was any damage associated with it.”

We also got a picture from Tammy Jack of Jefferson Township. There were tornado warnings in the area last night based on the conditions that were ripe for a tornado.

“The radar itself cannot detect a tornado, but it can detect the circulation,” Kramar said. “The bigger circulation that gives rise to the tornado, and we certainly saw some indications of rotation over in this area.”

Pictures like those and damage like what happened on Water Street in Saxonburg is what brought Kramar to the area to determine whether a tornado or a microburst hit town.

He was armed with maps of the warning areas and he drove those areas in his car. But his investigation in the areas north of Pittsburgh was inconclusive.

“Typically, microbursts are actually on a bigger scale in terms of width of the damage. Tornadoes can be very narrow, and typically are very narrow compared to the length of the oath,” said Kramar. “Downbursts typically start at a point and spread out, so the aerial coverage of a downburst is typically much greater than a tornado.”

In the end, Kramar determined that the spotty damage in the area was inconclusive and that no tornado has been confirmed.

An additional survey in Butler County revealed very little damage in Saxonburg, Lernerville and Cabot. The debris field consisting of spotty tree snappage and three uprooted trees proved inconclusive.

Cleanup is also underway after several roads were flooded in the Glenshaw area in Allegheny County Thursday because of thunderstorms and backed up storm sewers unable to handle large amounts of water quickly.

As of 3:30 p.m., roughly 300 Duquesne Light customers were still without power. Those customers are mostly in Bellevue where a landslide caused some significant damage to power lines. Crews hope to have power back in that area by midnight.

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