Potent storms set downpours, minor flooding, damaging winds

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Powerful storms roared through the region Thursday afternoon, darkening the skies to end-of-the-word levels, setting off minor flooding, taking down trees, and spawning something that witnesses behaved very much like a small tornado that took the roof of a building in West Conshohocken, Montgomery County.

A tree came down atop wires on busy Spring Mill Road, in Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, and another one was toppled onto wires in Wyebrook, Chester County.

Among several road-flooding reports posted by the National Weather Service, minor flooding was reported along the Black Horse Pike in South Jersey.

The East Branch of the Brandwyine Creek, in Chester County, went over its banks, as did Delaware’s Cristina River.

Just over 1.5 inches of rain was measured officially in Philadelphia on Thursday — with half of that coming in a one-hour period between 2 and 3 p.m.

About 15 miles outside the city, winds lifted the roof of a West Conshohocken building occupied by Heraeus Materials Technology, on Clipper Road, said police Chief Michael Sinclair.

A woman working in the building next door said “she saw a gray cloud, a swirling cloud, touch the roof.”

No one was injured, Sinclair said, and the 22 employees inside were evacuated safely. But a few cars remained stuck under a large piece detached roof Thursday evening.

Emergency crews responded to the scene at 3:55 pm, Sinclair said.

The damage was isolated; no nearby buildings or trees appeared to be affected by the storm.

Bob Kerprich, general manager of the company – which makes paste for electronics – said the wind picked up just before the roof blew off.

“I had a view of the trees and the trees were bending more than they’ve ever bent before,” he said.

Then, he said, he heard a rumble and began to see debris coming off the roof.

Storm damage of that extent – and the report of a funnel cloud sighting – is “rare,” said West Conshohocken Mayor Joseph Pignoli, who also serves as the borough emergency management coordinator. 

Lance Franck, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Mount Holly said radar gave no indication that the damage was the result of a tornado.

One thing that did survive the storms was the drought watch for southeastern Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday it would remain in effect. South Jersey’s also remains in effect.

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