CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A line of severe thunderstorms knocked down trees and power for residents living across West Virginia on Monday with Kanawha County, where a tornado warning was issued, appearing to be the hardest hit.
The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for 19 West Virginia counties earlier in the day. Meteorologists issued a tornado warning for central Kanawha County as the storm approached the region. The system brought heavy storms and gusts of wind, causing damage along its way.
Meteorologist Nick Webb said it is too early to determine if a tornado touched down.
“We’ll have to do storm surveys, which will likely be done in the morning, but there is extensive tree damage along Corridor G and some of the subdivisions,” he said. “The office may have been affected. We didn’t have any damage at the office per se, but there are trees down along the road to get to the radar.”
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper believes a tornado did touch down in the county.
“This will be verified by the National Weather Service,” he said, “however based on damage we are seeing and pictures that have been provided it appears a tornado touched down in Kanawha County.”
Webb said the storm was a strong upper-level system that was fueled by high levels of humidity and heat. In regards to the agency’s report, Webb said meteorologists will look at the extent of property damage and radar data to determine if a tornado did happen.
He added West Virginia has had an average of two tornadoes a year based on data collected from 1981 to 2010.
“I will say with the next 30 years of climatology coming up, that may be bumped up by one or two,” Webb said. “While they’re not common, I wouldn’t say they’re rare. The tornadoes that we do experience in the state are often times are on the weak end of the scale.”
The storm also caused power outages for thousands of Appalachian Power customers; the utility’s outlet map showed 25,649 customers without service as of 8:45 p.m. Kanawha County had the most outages with 20,452 people affected followed by Fayette County with 1,691 impacted households.
“This storm came quickly, and I know that Appalachian Power is working as quickly as possible to restore power to the customers. I would like to thank AEP for their work in the county,” Carper said.
According to Carper, the heaviest hit areas in Kanawha County were Corridor G, South Hills, Kanawha State Forest and the Elk River area.
Bridge Road, which connects downtown Charleston to the South Hills neighborhood, was closed Monday night as crews worked to remove trees and downed power lines.
“During the derecho, it was like this. That’s the only other time I remember us getting hit like this,” said Lt. Mike Burton of the Charleston Fire Department.
— Jake Flatley (@JakeFlatley) June 24, 2019