WAYNE COUNTY—Heavy rains and violent winds brought low countless trees Tuesday afternoon, May 15, leaving a wake of devastation throughout the central part of Wayne County.
Wednesday afternoon, a team of scientists from the National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down in the Keen Lake area of Canaan Township, tearing up trees, power lines, utility poles and overturning many free-standing structures.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the NWS, county emergency management personnel and local officials were still out traveling the path of the storm to assess the extent of the damage.
Thousands were left without power, and some without homes, after the mid-afternoon tornado ripped through the area.
The PPL outage map showed over 11,000 Wayne County customers without power following the storm.
That number reduced to just over 4,500 by Wednesday afternoon.
According to a post made by the power company, electricity was expected to return to the Poconos and Northeastern Pennsylvania by noon on Thursday, May 17, after services were rendered to the Susquehanna and Central regions by 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Harrisburg, Lancaster County and the Lehigh Valley were expected to have power by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Wayne County Emergency Management and several local fire companies remind those using generators to power their homes in the interim to keep the generator outdoors if possible or in a well ventilated area while it is in use to reduce the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Leading to much of the blackout and several road closures, the storm sundered several utility poles throughout the county.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) 511PA map, by Tuesday afternoon there were still two downed poles in Seeylyville, and one each in Honesdale, Bethany, Beach Lake and Welcome Lake.
The trees and power lines down in several sections along Route 6, leading to road closures and detours which turned a normally 20-minute drive into a several hour crawl of stop-and-go traffic.
Many drivers were rerouted several times in their efforts to return home after work.
Part of Route 6 in Seelyville and Route 652 from Catholic Church Road to Perkins Pond Road were still closed as of yesterday Afternoon.
Due to the road conditions as a result of the storm and its fallout, several busses in the Wayne Highlands School District were returned to their points of departure after dismissing Tuesday afternoon.
Despite the storm's rage, as of Wednesday afternoon, no injuries were reported as a result of Tuesday's tornado.
Path of the storm
Touching down in the western parts of the county, Waymart Borough and Canaan Township were hit hard.
According to Canaan Township Supervisors Lewis Henshaw and Ronald Shemanski, the Keen Lake Campground was hit especially hard.
“Our main focus is to get the trees cleared off so we can assess the damage,” said Shemanski.
While there is still much debris and clean up to do, Henshaw stated, “All of our roads right now are open.”
A post-storm message from Waymart Fire & Rescue thanked myriad other departments for their assistance, including Browndale, Lake Ariel, Prompton, Cottage Hose and Whites Crossing fire departments, Cottage EMS, Waymart Police, State Police, and PennDOT.
The post also stated the fire hall was open to residents in need of charging their electronics.
The fire company also invited residents in need to contact them at 570-488-6131 with questions or requests for help.
The company also noted it can help connect those in need with services from the Red Cross.
Waymart Borough President Lilian Rollison commended the work of the Waymart Fire & Rescue personnel who were out clearing roads and keeping the public safe after the storm.
From there, the storm swept eastward leaving damage in Prompton and Bethany Boroughs and Dyberry and Texas Townships.
Coming through Honesdale Borough, it toppled trees which crashed through numerous residences, many along East Street in the norther part of the municipality, explained Stanton Pratt, the borough's Emergency Management Coordinator.
“Glen Dyberry Cemetery is devastated,” said Pratt.
A walk through the cemetery shortly after the storm revealed gravestones knocked over and displaced from the fallen timber.
With power knocked out in the borough, fire police were stationed at high-volume intersections, directing drivers in lieu of the lightless traffic signals.
Pratt asked that borough residents alert their utility companies of any downed lines they see, and that they inform him of damages to their homes, businesses, vehicles or other property so he may gather an accurate total to issue in reports to the state and federal emergency management associations.
Residents can email information to Pratt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avoid downed wires
“I would like to remind all residents to please stay away from downed wires,” said Pratt in a press release, “There is no way to tell if a wire is still energized.
“Coming in contact with or near an energized electric line on the ground can cause severe injury or death.
“Please keep your children indoors or under your direct control until downed trees and wires are resolved.”
Slightly farther south in Texas Township, the Route 6 Plaza had two plate windows blown out and a series of ceiling tiles disrupted by the heavy winds whipping through the strip mall.
The mall lost power for under an hour, but the businesses were back up and running shortly.
Glass workers were on site replacing the shattered windows before the end of the day.
Yet further east, Berlin Township also saw a fair amount of fallen trees.
“It was quite the storm,” said worker Rob Mahon who was out clearing trees for the township after the storm.
Mahon noted the center of Berlin Township and the areas around Welcome Lake were hit especially hard.
Describing the tempest's trajectory, Mahon stated it followed a similar path to a tornado which swept the area several years ago.