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Tornado destroys Warnock barn

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Workers at the Shaw Farm outside St. Clairsville clean up debris following a tornado Thursday. The barn and three vehicles inside were badly damaged, but no one was hurt.

WARNOCK — The Shaw Farm barn on Country Club Road became a casualty Thursday night when Belmont County was hit by strong storms.

The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-1 tornado, or the second weakest tornado level on the Enhanced Fujita scale, touched down in the county that night.

On Friday, the Shaw family was on the grounds, repairing damage and collecting and burning debris.

“No one was home. My sister was down in her house and just heard it,” Jeannine Shaw, sister of owner Cynthia Shaw, said. “She asked us to come over and I said, ‘Cindy, your barn’s on the road,’ and it was. It was quite a scene, but no one was hurt.”

She said the 5-year-old barn had been used for family events, storage and office space.

“A lot of good times,” she said.

The family was also cataloging losses Friday.

“The RV was inside and two Corvettes,” she said, adding the vehicles were badly damaged and towed away. Meanwhile, people were making progress on the cleanup.

“We’ve cleaned up immensely,” she said Friday afternoon, adding that the fate of the barn will likely be decided in the spring. “I don’t know if she’ll rebuild.

“I’m only happy it wasn’t her house with her in it, because we can replace everything else and rebuild,” Jeannine Shaw said. “No one was here, and normally we spend so much time in this building because this is our offices.”

According to the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, this was the only major damage reported in the county as a result of Thursday’s storms. An EF-1 tornado is classified as having a wind speed of 86-110 mph. In the Warnock area, the NWS said estimated maximum wind speed was 90-95 mph.

Becky Horne, executive administrative assistant with Belmont County EMA, said the agency received calls from a resident of Willow Grove Road near Bellaire saying his yard and those of his neighbors were covered with wind-blown debris and that neighbors reported seeing a funnel cloud. Another resident close to the destroyed barn and in line with the Shaw property said several oak trees were blown down on his property. Another Bellaire area resident on North Moss Run reported a path of damage across her property and two adjoining properties as well as damage to two large trees.

“She said it looked like something went through there,” Horne said. “The only property damage we know of is the Shaw barn.

Rick Ferrell, Richland Township trustee and a local insurance agent, said township workers were cleaning the damage and clearing roadways Friday.

“It was in different pockets in the county. There’s isolated areas in which the wind came through,” he said. “Down in the area where the Shaws live, there was damage to the east of there as well. We had some claim activity, not a lot today. We’ve seen some claims for falling trees, shingles missing. We had areas of the township that had trees down on the roadways.”

He said tornados are not often seen in Belmont County.

“It’s very rare. We’ve had two instances this summer and fall in which tornado warnings have been issued. It is important when these warnings are issued to take notice and do what’s necessary to protect yourself from injury,” he said. “It happens in small areas and does not stay on the ground for a considerable period of time, but when it does hit, it can be devastating. … A lot of people think, ‘It’s just a warning, everything’s fine,’ but there are times in which you don’t have much time to react.”

As of Friday evening, the NWS had confirmed five tornadoes developed during Thursday’s storms. In addition to the Warnock weather event, an EF-1 also was confirmed in Mt. Pleasant in Jefferson County. Two twisters were confirmed in Allegheny County and one in Washington County in Pennsylvania.

The agency planned seven additional damage surveys in western Pennsylvania to determine the extent of the storms’ severity.

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