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Some say it was a tornado

  • Bill and Stephanie Wittig's home at 154 Penn St. had the deck taken down by several large trees following the storm last night.
    Bill and Stephanie Wittig's home at 154 Penn St. had the deck taken down by several large trees following the storm last night.
Published May 24. 2011 05:00PM

Clean up efforts were under way in Franklin Township this morning following what some people say was a tornado at about 7:15 last night.

Whether it was a tornado or not is yet to be determined, but the wind-damaged-homes, cars, a church, plus upended bleachers at the Little League field were proof enough for residents. Also many mature trees were uprooted on several properties.

First in the line of damage was the roof over the preschool at St. Matthew's Church. This morning a tarp covered the hole.

Debbie Fisher of Penn Street said when she got up to close a window last night, she saw her neighbor's roof fly by. Fisher's home had minimal damage. Some patio furniture, though, was thrown off the deck, some of the debris striking one of the family's cars. Her gas grill was in a mangled heap.

It was her neighbor's home, at 154 Penn St. that received the most damage. Bill Wittig and his wife, Stephanie, were in the living room, which is on the second floor of the large structure, when the picture window blew in, throwing Stephanie and her husband across the room. Stephanie received minor cuts on her arms from the flying glass.

The couple believed the home is a total loss as the roof is missing from about half of the structure. The damage caused by the torrential rain flooded the home.

The damage to the Wittig home came at a heartbreaking time for the couple. Only a week ago they finished a major renovation project to the living room and kitchen.

"We saved for many years for the new kitchen," said Stephanie. "It was only finished a week ago."

The couple's son, Daniel, was downstairs watching television when he heard his parents cry out. He wasn't injured. The deck around the rear of the home was pulled down by the large trees that landed on it.

Tree branches and parts of the roof litter the Wittig front yard. Parts of the Wittig roof hit the home of Ron House on Penn Street, causing damage to the rear corner where the garage is located. Roof parts also hit a neighbor's home across the street, damaging the awning.

The wind mangled a storage shed on the property of Kevin Lilly, also of Penn Street, but left untouched a stack of wood.

The storm went through the back yard of Ron Strohl churning up tree debris and dirt slinging it onto the home. It then went on to damage the Little League field.

"It sounded like it was hailing," said Strohl. The home is coated with vegetation and mud.

Wayne Wentz, president of the Franklin Township Little League Association, said it appears that the bleachers were picked up and pushed into the backstop. The storm also damaged a light pole, destroyed the batting cages and took out a large tree at the edge of one of the ponds.

Wentz said that the bleachers weigh about 3,500 pounds and that the batting cage was constructed of heavy poles.

The storm then appeared to go up the alley behind homes on Main Street and took out a large tree in the yard of Mary Rimbey on Wagner Street.

Rimbey's daughter, Vanessa, was watching out the window when she saw the funnel coming through the trees.

The damage along Fairyland Road included the properties of Ron Solt, a former township supervisor, and his neighbors, Jennifer and Shane Boyle of Fairyland Road.

"It was raining and we went to shut the windows in the front when the back window shattered," said Jennifer Boyle.

Between the two properties, eight large trees were either uprooted or had all the limbs broken off.

"I have no doubt that it was a tornado," said Solt. "You can tell by the way the trees went down. The wind was coming one way and some of the trees fell opposite."

Solt said he was inside watching the tornado clean-up in Joplin, MO, on television when the storm hit.

"I think it all happened in the space of a minute," said Solt.

The two properties are littered with the shingles from the Boyle home.

While several other homes received damage, only the Wittigs were made homeless. The Wittigs say they plan to temporarily stay with family.

"I believe the home is gone," said Stephanie Wittig. "It has water damage. At least I got to enjoy my new kitchen and furniture for a week."

The Wittigs removed a boat that was in the garage. Mrs. Wittig said they feared that the home will collapse from the water damage.

Franklin Township Fire Company and Fire Police assistedesidents of the Penn Street neighborhood.

Power that was interrupted was restored by PPL workers during the night.

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