Officials assessing Hempfield tornado damage

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Officials say it will take several days to assess all the damage caused by a storm that ripped through Hempfield Wednesday, a storm that was officially determined to be a tornado today.

Township Manager Kurt Ferguson said today he sent out four inspectors, who have to make their way on roads that are still closed by storm debris.

But he said it appears 30 to 35 homes are currently uninhabitable, although that doesn't necessarily mean they all will have to be demolished. It appears 90 or more homes in the township, particularly the Fort Allen neighborhood, received some storm damage.

A shelter was set up at the township building, but no one was using it this morning.

People from the National Weather Service and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency toured the area today, and the weather service announced around noon that the area had been hit by a tornado.



Meteorologist Brad Rehak said surveyors who were on the ground this afternoon gathering information determined that the tornado had winds of 111 to 135 mph, making it an EF2 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The scale rates tornados on a scale of 0 to 5. A rating of EF2 makes it a "strong" tornado.

Hempfield Area High School was closed today because of roof damage. But Mr. Ferguson said otherwise there didn't seem to be extensive damage to public property such as roads and utilities.

He said the township declared a state of emergency at 6 p.m. yesterday. Extra deputies were called out in response to people picking through debris to steal things. No arrests were reported.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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