The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 23, 2014

Hail storm smashes, dents path through Montour County

DANVILLE — Hail as large as grapefruits destroyed hundreds of car windows, downed trees and power lines and damaged homes Thursday afternoon.

The storm, ripping through around 3 p.m., damaged two Geisinger Life Flight helicopters. The helicopters are still fully operational, said Geisinger Health System Public Relations Specialist Mike Ferlazzo.

Patient care wasn’t disrupted during the storm, but Geisinger facilities did sustain minor damage.

A tornado warning was issued, meaning radar had detected a tornado in the area, said Erik Pindrock, of AccuWeather, in State College.

But that tornado was not confirmed by a sighting, he said.

The hail was the story of the afternoon, Pindrock said, with ice balls measuring up to 2.5 inches in diameter in some parts of Montour County.

“This was a very unusual weather event,” he said. “The winds within this fast moving thunderstorm were highly unstable causing the raindrops to freeze and turn into ice balls.”

The 3 p.m. outbreak of severe weather caused school officials in Danville, Shamokin, Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia to recognize the danger and delay dismissal.  

In Danville, students and individuals who were parked outside to pick them up were allowed inside to protect everyone from damaging hail and wind.

Fairfield Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram reported nearly 300 vehicles on their lot damaged. Some of the vehicles sell for more than $50,000. At least one home in Mahoning Township had windows damaged by hail.

Neighborhoods in Mahoning Township, around the Geisinger campus, were hit hard.

Geisinger’s security team is assessing damage at its facilities. People who had vehicle damage should report it immediately to insurance companies, Ferlazzo said.

Vehicles were damaged along Woodbine Lane, at Geisinger’s main campus and along Justin Drive.

Deborah Klusman, a registered nurse at Geisinger’s outpatient surgery along Woodbine Lane, has had her Chevrolet Equinox 2014 for two months. The back window was shattered and “my sunroof has lots of dents and dings,” she said.

“I was in a meeting. It was horrendous — like the roof was going to come in,” she said. She said some of the nurses there took photos of the hail that was larger than golf balls.

“At least half of the nursing staff’s cars and vehicles of patients and families were damaged,” she said. She estimated half the vehicles in their lot were damaged.

She took her vehicle to Hawkins Collision Center, along Route 11, where “the phone lines have been totally lit up for the last two hours,” body shop manger Jim Miller said.

He said at least 50 vehicles on their lot were damaged by hail.

By Thursday evening, he expected at least 150 vehicles to be brought there for repairs. “Geisinger got hammered. There are hundreds there,” he said.

He said tow companies were also bringing vehicles in for repairs.

Miller and his staff were staying late so they could put plastic crash wrap on the vehicles to protect them until they can be repaired.

Mahoning Township Fire Department Chief Leslie Young was at work at Geisinger’s main campus at the time the storm raged through, denting her truck.

Some flooding was reported in front of 1824 Bloom Road.

Wires and trees were also reported down in the Washingtonville area.

At Fairfield, which is also along Route 11, windshields of vehicles were broken, sunroofs pounded and vehicle bodies dented by hail, General Manager Steve Kaiser said.

He saw hail the size of golf balls and some “the size of a grapefruit.”

Their body shop will be busy removing the dents and replacing the windshields and sunroofs.

“Our insurance rep will be here tomorrow,” he said. When asked about a damage estimate, he said, “It’s way too early to tell.”

In Danville, a tree on the edge of the Shiloh United Church of Christ parking lot blew across Bloom Street and had to be cut up and removed by a borough crew.

The Danville public works department also hauled away a tree that had blown across Little Ash Street.

The Liberty Township Fire Company was called about a tree falling on live wires at 4:15 p.m. at 115 Narehood Road.

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