A storm that toppled trees and left hundreds without power in Mount Holly Springs and the surrounding area Thursday night was virtually identical to one that occurred in May 2018, residents said.
The National Weather Service said Friday that it had received calls about the storm, but had not yet investigated.
But locals said it appeared that a weather phenomenon similar to last year’s, which the NWS had described as a “microburst” event, had happened in the same location, exactly 15 months later.
“It was the same thing, the same damage, just like the one on May 15th of last year,” said Wesley Tate, who lives with his brother Bryan at the corner of Route 174 and Zion Road, adjacent to the Craighead Bridge.
In fact, the Tates still have large logs sitting on their property from trees downed during last year’s storm, which they’ve been gradually cutting into lumber.
The storm downed dozens of large trees, tearing some out of the ground by the roots and shearing off others further up their trunks. Yards in Mount Holly Springs and the surrounding neighborhoods of South Middleton Township were littered with branches or entire trees.
The steel posts of road signs had been twisted and snapped, and one home along Zion Road had a large trampoline that had been overturned and tossed into an adjacent tree.
Tate’s motorized garden tiller, a heavy block of metal, had been flipped over, he said. Large swaths of cornfields in the area were also flattened.
All of the damaged landscape appeared to have been toppled by a wind blowing from southwest to the northeast, proceeding from Mount Holly and crossing Zion Road just south of the Craighead Bridge, the same direction as the high winds in May 2018, resident Garrett Neff said.
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Trees on Neff’s parents’ property that had been uprooted in last year’s storm were lying in the same direction as those that had come down Thursday night. The west-facing wall of the house was plastered with leaves and other debris, and a few shutters had been torn off their hinges.
The storm along Zion Road lasted about 40 minutes, Neff said, and slacked off around 11 p.m. Dispatch logs from the Cumberland County Department of Public Safety showed local fire departments were dispatched to 14 incidents between 10 and 11 p.m. in Mount Holly Springs and South Middleton and Dickinson townships.
South Middleton Township Supervisor Tom Faley said roughly 40 trees or tree limbs had to be cleared from township roads throughout Friday.
“I don’t remember us having a workload like that in a long time,” Faley said. “It’s been several years since we had winds that bad.”
Met-Ed trucks converged on Mount Holly Springs Friday morning in an effort to repair lines. Tree limbs — and some trees — were scattered across lawns and driveways in the Mount Holly Springs area. That included debris from a large tree that fell over Route 34 Thursday night near the Holly Inn. The roadway was open for traffic Friday morning.
Met-Ed power trucks were conducting repairs into the late afternoon on Friday, with a handful of residents still without power, according to outage maps.
“It was the weirdest storm I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” said Mount Holly Springs Borough Manager and Police Chief Tom Day. “The bolts of lightning and how the sky lit up, it seemed like it never stopped.”
One borough police officer who was on patrol at the time “thought he was in a tornado” and feared the winds would overturn his vehicle, Day said.
Following the storm in 2018, the National Weather Service told ABC27 that it believed the event was a microburst, an intense downdraft caused by air that rapidly falls to the surface during a thunderstorm.