High winds howling through Portsmouth are being blamed for sending construction materials flying from atop a four-story building, raining down on the street below, severing an electrical power line and closing the business area for much of Thursday afternoon.
Winds of 15 to 25 mph, with gusts approaching 50 mph, were funneled through the historic Boneyfiddle district, sending wallboard that had just been delivered to the roof of the building at Second and Court streets airborne, disrupting traffic and forcing officials to cordon off several blocks in four directions.
According to officials at the scene, no one was injured, and there was no evidence of any damage to vehicles or buildings. At least one of the wallboards clipped an electrical power line, which required repairs by AEP.
Larry Whitt, owner of Whitt’s Roofing, said about 30 sheets of wallboard blew off the roof of the building that houses Patties & Pints restaurant when the straps binding the construction material gave way. Whitt said the material is used for decking prior to installation of a rubber roof.
The howling winds, which were expected to subside by sunset Thursday, made cleanup of the debris and repair of the electrical lines difficult.
High winds also contributed to forest fires across Scioto County. A blaze in the Swauger Valley woods was reported between Sciotoville and Minford, but fire officials were unavailable to provide details prior to press time. Vernon Township Fire Chief Mike Davis confirmed that a firefighter was burned and flown to a Columbus hospital, and a second firefighter fell down a hill and was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va. The names of the firefighters nor their conditions had been released as of press time. Davis called the fire battled by Vernon firefighters “suspicious.”
The National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” for the region Thursday, warning residents in the lower Scioto Valley to avoid outdoor burning, which could result in rapid fire growth.
While Thursday’s strong winds took their toll throughout the region, the NWS says such windy conditions are not all that unusual.
“It’s obviously a breezy day,” said Steve Hrechenach, a meteorologist with the NWS in Wilmington, which serves the Portsmouth area. Although winds gusted to as high as 50 mph, Hrechenach declined to say those winds were unusual. “Certainly, it’s windier than your average day.”
At the same time the “red flag warning” was issued, the weather service canceled a Fire Weather Watch issued Wednesday, which warned that conditions were right for brushfires. Hrechenach said the conditions for brushfires include low humidity, high winds and dry conditions on the ground. He admitted local residents might scratch their heads regarding reports of dry ground conditions considering recent rains. However, Hrechenach said there are different types of what he called “fuels,” including fallen branches and similar materials, which can dry out quickly and become kindling for fires. Hrechenach said Thursday afternoon that no reports of fires or wind damage had reached his office. That was before the fire reported in Swauger Valley.
Incidentally, for anyone thinking recent daytime high temperatures of near 80 degrees are finally signaling the arrival of spring in the Portsmouth area, Hrechenach confirmed what you’ve likely already heard — snow showers are possible late Sunday and into early Monday.
Tom Corrigan and Michelle Bentley contributed to this story.
Reach Lynn Adams at 740-353-3101 ext. 1927