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Storm wallops Teays Valley area

TEAYS VALLEY, W.Va. -- Katie Fuller stood beside the stump where, 24 hours earlier, her 100-foot-tall oak tree had stood, and snapped her fingers.

"I was sitting at my computer looking out the window and then, all of the sudden -- it was that quick," she said. "The wind just started blowing like you wouldn't believe. Everything just happened so fast.

"As I watched, it looked like someone literally picked the tree up and laid it town, and as it uprooted, it looked like someone took a rug and shook it and the concrete just rippled."

Fuller's tree peeled her driveway up as it fell, landing in neighbor Sharron Ballard's driveway and flattening her silver 2002 Chevrolet Malibu.

Ballard, who cares for her elderly mother, said although the damage was severe, she is grateful she and her family were not harmed.

"Five feet to the right, and it would have landed in the room where my mother was," Ballard said. "We were lucky."

The storm, which was classified as a microburst by the National Weather Service, caused extensive damage in a small part of Teays Valley, destroying two mobile homes and injuring two people.

According to the Weather Service, microbursts are localized columns of sinking air with a reach of less than 2.5 miles. Wednesday's storm was reported to be 150 yards wide and roughly a third of a mile long with winds of 70-80 miles per hour, touching down primarily along Marina Drive.

"It's very difficult to measure these storms," said Tim Axford, a meteorologist at the Weather Service's office in Charleston.

"Last night's storm was on a very isolated, very microscopic scale. It impacted some residents, but we also had some employees just down the road who only experienced winds of 25 to 30 miles an hour. It just shows that it was on a very localized scale."

Axford said storms of this kind are uncommon in the state, with only one or two microbursts reported each year in Kanawha and surrounding counties.

While microbursts are capable of causing damage similar to tornadoes, they usually do not last long -- the damage caused Wednesday took less than 10 minutes, according to Ballard.

The removal of the tree happened almost as quickly -- Ballard's neighbors and fellow residents worked to clear it to allow access to the only entrance her mother is capable of using.

"My husband, our neighbor and his friends all came over with chainsaws and cleared the tree," Fuller said. "We had so many people come out and help. Our neighbors just came together."

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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