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Funnel cloud spotted in Walnutport

Published May 24. 2011 05:00PM

Possible tornado damage wreaked havoc on a home in Franklin Township, while a funnel cloud was spotted in Walnutport heading toward Palmerton, as part of a wicked storm Monday evening.

Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County EMA Coordinator, told the TIMES NEWS he boarded a helicopter this morning to check on damage that occurred on Fairyland Road and Penn Street in Franklin Township.

Nalesnik said he was able to observe numerous backyards where storage sheds were completely destroyed or ripped apart in those areas of Franklin Township.

However, Nalesnik said he wasn't certain the damage was necessarily caused by a tornado.

"It's inconclusive," he said. "Looking from the air, I just can't tell if the damage was caused by tornadic action or straight line winds."

Nalesnik said the National Weather Service will likely check on the matter to make that determination.

"They need to determine if it was a tornado," he said. "This is historic; they want to be sure to get the right accurate information for documentation purposes."

Reached this morning, Joe Miketta, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Mount Holly, N.J., confirmed that a tornado warning was issued for southeast Carbon County at about 7:30 p.m.

Miketta said the radar imagery was "inconclusive" based on radar of what might have happened, and added the National Weather Service was ready to go up if needed.

That a funnel cloud was spotted in Walnutport and heading toward Palmerton wouldn't necessarily be an unusual occurrence, Miketta said.

"They are often sited, but they have to touch the ground to become a tornado," Miketta said. "By the time the storms reached Palmerton, the doppler radar wasn't showing really strong circulation; that's why ground truth is so important."

Nalesnik said last night a funnel cloud was spotted in Walnutport heading toward Palmerton

"We made the municipal government people aware to let them know it was headed their way," he said. "We heard no more about Palmerton, and we then had reports of funnel clouds sited in Franklin Township that caused damage."

As a result, Nalesnik said he sent a team of volunteer EMA deputies to do the initial damage reporting. The report said there were 10 homes with minor damage, one home with major damage, and one church with minor damage, he said.

Miketta said that in order to be declared a tornado, there must be the right environmental conditions, circulation on the radar, a siting of a funnel cloud or tornado, eyewitness reports, and damage on the ground has to be consistent with that of a tornado.

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