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It wasn’t a tornado this time

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

and TRAVIS HANDY

It’s official. Wednesday’s damaging wind event in the Dublin and Fairlawn areas was not a tornado.

Representatives of the National Weather Service toured the damaged areas Wednesday to see whether there were telltale signs of a tornado. There weren’t so Meteorologist Nick Fillo said the conclusion was straight-line winds.

Straight-line winds, sometimes called downbursts, are sudden rushes of wind toward the ground that are dispersed outward when they reach the surface. With straight-line winds, downed trees and other debris will be pushed in the same direction the wind was blowing, whereas debris from a tornado is scattered about in different directions.

The approximately 3 p.m. storm toppled large trees, overturned and jostled vehicles, ripped sections of roof off homes, damaged the façade of a business and leveled barns, resulting in the death of a horse and power outages to thousands of county residents.

Under the light of day Thursday, Thornspring Road, especially in the area of Chicwood Estates, showed significant wind damage to trees and structures. A hay barn owned by Mike and Gaye Whitaker, who own the Cross Over W Arabians farm on Chicwood Drive had its roof torn off and their stable also lost its porch to the high wind. Pieces of their five-board wooden pasture fence were scattered across the hillside. Mike Whitaker commented they “lost two-thirds of three miles worth of lumber.”

The Whitakers’ home lost quite a few shingles and their gazebo sustained a bit of damage as well. They said their six Arabian horses were spooked during the storm and after, but none of their animals were harmed. They did have to salvage what was left in their hay barn, which holds up to 1,500 bales of hay when full. They were awaiting a visit from an insurance adjuster.

They also reported their neighbor, whose roof was torn off his home at 5851 Chicwood Drive, had just been feeding the Whitakers’ horses and was on his way home through the storm. When the wind lifted the roof from the home and blew it into the yard, Mike said, it landed no more than 10 feet in front of him. The Whitakers both said it was a miracle he wasn’t killed or injured.

In Fairlawn, residents had begun picking up after the storm, although its effects were still quite evident. The owner of Radford Foodette was still waiting to hear from his insurance company, but reported in addition to the damage to an exterior wall of the building and wind-tossed U-haul trailers, there also was damage to the roof, including the rooftop HVAC equipment. He speculated damages could be at least $15,000 to $20,000. By noon Thursday, tar paper had been placed on the portion of the exterior brick wall smashed by the impact of vehicles and trailers reportedly picked up and thrown by wind the previous afternoon.

Power was mostly restored to Fairlawn by around 1 p.m. Thursday, coming as a relief to residents worried about frigid temperatures expected the next several nights.

The county is compiling a list of the damage and asks citizens to call 994-2602 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for non-emergency information or to report property damage.  Leave a message after hours and the call will be returned.

Assistant County Administrator Robert Hiss said the county water plant did lose water production capability for nearly 12 hours, but the plant was producing at a normal level by Thursday afternoon. He said the county water supply is stable and safe for consumption.