Potent storms spur downpours, minor flooding, damaging winds

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

A tree came down atop wires on busy Spring Mill Road in Lower Merion and another  toppled onto wires in Honey Brook Township, Chester County.

The several road reports posted by the National Weather Service included minor flooding along the Black Horse Pike in South Jersey.

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

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

About 15 miles outside the city, winds lifted the roof from a building  on Clipper Road occupied by Heraeus Materials Technology, said West Conshohocken 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 safely evacuated. But a few cars remained stuck under a large piece of detached roof Thursday evening.

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

The damage was isolated, as 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 Mayor Joseph Pignoli, who also is the borough’s 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 that the watch would remain in effect. South Jersey’s also remains in effect.

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