The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down Wednesday night in northeastern Pennsylvania, where a severe storm pounded Wilkes-Barre Township, ravaging businesses, flipping rental trucks, and downing trees and power lines.
Local media outlets described the scene in Wilkes-Barre as a “war zone,” saying restaurants and stores on Mundy Street, in the township’s business district, were “completely gutted,” with water raining down from the ceilings.
The Associated Press said there were no initial reports of injuries, but one meteorologist said Thursday that had the storm hit just hours earlier, when people were dining and shopping, the outcome could have been much worse.
Ben Reppert, a meteorologist for the weather communications department at Penn State University, said that it would have been particularly dangerous. It would have been “rain-wrapped” and traveling across the state’s hilly terrain in the dark, meaning it would have been “nearly impossible for people to see it if they were out and about.” He said it would have been a “blind attack.”
The NWS said in a bulletin that a “storm survey team has confirmed a tornado occurred in the Wilkes-Barre Township during the evening
of June 13, 2018. The storm survey is ongoing and additional information concerning the track, damage and intensity of the tornado will be available
A tornado warning was issued late Wednesday night for Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and Plymouth.
Soon after, Wilkes-Barre Township police said on Twitter that there had been a “report of multiple collapsed buildings [in the] area of Mundy Street,” urging drivers to avoid the area.
“At first I didn’t take it seriously because we’re not supposed to get tornadoes here,” James Roheña, a J.C. Penney employee, told the Citizens’ Voice about the moment he heard the tornado warning. “But then the rain started coming down in waves, with flashes of lightning. So I shut the doors and locked them, and the next thing I knew, it felt like I was in the movie ‘Twister.’ ”
Photos and videos on social media showed shattered storefronts and parking lots strewn with debris.
“The destruction is unbelievable,” Ryan Walsh, who manages the J.C. Penney store in the area, told the Citizens’ Voice. “You see this stuff on TV, not here.”