Tornado leaves path of 'unbelievable' destruction in Pennsylvania

A tornado touched down in northeastern Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, ravaging businesses, flipping rental trucks, downing trees and power lines, and injuring at least six people in Wilkes-Barre Township.

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 National Weather Service confirmed the tornado; a local official called it “a catastrophic weather event,” describing the damage as “severe.”

“Numerous buildings have had their roofs torn off; we’ve had concrete blocks thrown a quarter of a mile and pieces of trucks that have been thrown some distance,” Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said at a Thursday morning briefing.

Pedri added that six minor injuries have been reported but that there were “no major casualties.”

“We were very lucky that this came through at 10:22 because this would be a very, very busy place at approximately 6 p.m., 7 p.m., especially on Father’s Day weekend,” Pedri said.

Leading up to the NWS’s assessment, Ben Reppert, a meteorologist for the weather communications department at Penn State University, said a tornado would have been particularly dangerous. It would have been “rain-wrapped” and traveling across hilly terrain in the dark, meaning that 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 later 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 later today.”

tornado warning was issued late Wednesday night for Wilkes-Barre and nearby Kingston and Plymouth.

Soon after, Wilkes-Barre police said on Twitter that there had been a “report of multiple collapsed buildings [in the] area of Mundy Street,” and they urged 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.”

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