FAIRMONT – Michael Savonarola was in the middle of a viewing at Ross Funeral Home when the lights began to flicker on and off.
Around 2:45 p.m. a storm blew through the region bringing winds of approximately 35 miles per hour to the front door of the funeral home. On the sidewalk outside, a 100-plus-year-old oak tree was toppled by the high winds and straddled Fairmont Avenue. The tree ended up in the front yard of the VFW post.
“It got really dark and the wind started blowing really hard,” Savonarola said. “I didn’t hear the tree actually fall but it was a lot of wind.”
Donald Brunett was inside VFW Post 629 Thursday afternoon in Fairmont when he heard a “boom.”
The wind was so strong he couldn’t even open the door of the VFW building. He looked out the window, and saw the destruction.
“I said, ‘oh my God,’” he recalled.
He said the roof of his SUV was collapsed and a side window was blown out as a result of the tree falling on it.
Because his vehicle was buried under the tree, he couldn’t see what it did to the other side of the SUV. Another vehicle was parked in front of his, though his vehicle seemed to take the brunt.
“It’s bad, that’s all I got to say,” he said.
The manager of the VFW, Tabby Gum, said she heard four or five booms. She said the power went on and off twice and after a third time, it went completely out.
“The wind was so strong, you couldn’t even open the door,” she said.
Raymond Jackson, a worker with the state Division of Highways, was cutting the tree trunk with a chain saw, sawdust flying into the street.
He estimated that the tree was more than 100 years old.
According to the National Weather Service, a cold front coupled with a change in air pressure in the area brewed up a lightning storm that itself replicated lightning in its brevity. The storm caused at least 30 to 40 trees to hit the ground in Marion County, and water residue formed pools of water in the soggy streets.
“We have reports of a number of trees down between Farmington and Fairmont,” said John Darnley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We saw those type of really strong gusts coming through with that.”
The storm, which had winds reportedly as high as 35 mph, downed trees all around Marion County. In Rivesville, a crew of rescue workers went to Paw Paw Street where trees were laying across the power lines and “actively arcing.”
Mon Power spokesman Jeffrey Straight said residents should treat every downed power line they encounter after a storm as if the line is still live, and has the ability to shock a person.
At one point after the storm, some 7,800 Mon Power customers throughout Marion County were without electricity. According to the Mon Power online outage map, some of those customers would not have power restored until 8:00 p.m., due to the storm that began around 2:45 p.m.
Straight urges Mon power customers to access the outage amp online at http://outages.firstenergycorp.com/mdwv.html. At the site, web surfers can search county by county where they are given a snapshot of the outages in real time.
Rescue crews also worked with people’s Gas and Old Dominion to repair a number of ruptured gas lines.
Despite the damage caused by the storm, Darnley said the National Weather Service was initially expecting worse because of the look of the weather patterns that crossed the area.
“We were expecting it to be a little worse than it was,” Darnley said. “It’s actually not too bad for a severe thunderstorm.”
After the brunt of the storm, police, fire departments, public works and EMS worked to contain the damage, assess whether there were any injuries and clear debris from the roads. According to Savonarola, the tree that fell across Fairmont Avenue outside the funeral home is on City of Fairmont property, but he is expecting to have to deal with some of the effects. He said one of the biggest shames is the age of the tree, because it has weathered many a storm in its hundred years in Fairmont.
“The trees are over 100 years old, that’s the bad thing,” Savonarola said. “It’s just a matter of time that this was going to happen.”
Eric Cravey also contributed to this report.