An afternoon storm that ripped through Bellefonte on Thursday was probably not the result of a tornado – which a handful of locals spoke about on social media – but it could have been the result of something else. weather rare, according to meteorologists.
AccuWeather and the National Weather Service told CDT there were no confirmed tornadoes in Center County on Thursday. But WTAJ Chief Meteorologist Joe Murgo said via Twitter that a “Galewas possible, and Alyson Hoegg, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather, acknowledged to CDT on Friday that it was a distinct possibility.
The storm left flooded roads and fallen trees in its wake, and more than 1,000 West Penn Power customers temporarily lost power. No injuries from the storm have been reported, according to Jody Lair, assistant director of Center County emergency services.
“It’s hard to tell but, looking at the radar, it looks like the storm could have produced a downburst just over the Bellefonte area,” Hoegg said. “And that would certainly bring gusting winds of 60 to 70 mph as it moves through Bellefonte and further across the valley towards Lamar.”
A “downburst,” powerful winds that descend from a thunderstorm before spreading, occur a handful of times throughout Pennsylvania in any given year. (They’re more common in the southeastern United States, Hoegg said.) It’s hard to say for sure that’s exactly what happened on Thursday, especially since AccuWeather and the NWS n There are no observation capabilities at Bellefonte, but this possibility would help explain the extent of the storm’s damage.
According to multiple reports, the afternoon storm caused downed utility poles and lines, flooded roads, power outages, fallen trees and at least two destroyed brick chimneys – which could also have happen because of lightning, Hoegg said. It was hard to speak for sure since the closest measuring devices reside at University Park Airport, where gusts only reached 44mph on Thursday.
But, ahead of the afternoon storm, NWS warned of gusts approaching 70mph in and around Bellefonte and, based on the damage, Hoegg said something between 50 and 70mph was likely.
Downbursts can form as falling rain passes through drier air. According to Hoegg, several conditions — such as rising air and strong winds before the storm — must also line up for the phenomenon to occur. Downbursts are even sometimes confused with tornadoes, as a downburst can mimic the speeds of a weaker tornadoi.e. between 65 mph and 110 mph.
“The storm was intensifying as it moved north and east through the valley,” Hoegg added. “So while someone could have seen winds of 40, 50, 60 mph, I wouldn’t rule it out somewhere – whether it was Bellefonte or further down the path of the storm as it moved downhill. north and east towards Lamar – which could see wind gusts up to 70.”
There are no cost estimates yet on the extent of Thursday’s damage, county officials said.
AccuWeather is project a partly sunny day Saturday for Bellefonte, with a high of 53 degrees and only a 3% chance of precipitation.