Governor Tours Tornado Damage in Luzerne County

WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Two tornados about two hours apart in two different parts of our viewing area left significant damage Thursday night.

The National Weather Service says the first tornado touched down in Bradford County, with much of the damage focused in Franklin Township.

The other tornado hit the busy Arena Hub Shopping Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township, Luzerne County.

National Weather Service officials say a tornado happening in a metro area like Wilkes-Barre Township is very rare, and despite so much destruction Thursday night, only six people had minor injuries.

Emergency lights flashing in the night were about the only showing us what was left of the Dick's Sporting Goods store at the Arena Hub Plaza after the tornado ripped through the place.

But daytime told a clearer story: chairs impaled into the America's Best sign, a U-Haul truck turned upside down, 20-foot shards of metal roofing all over the parking lot.

The National Weather Service says all this damage was brought on by an EF2 tornado with winds of up to 130 miles per hour.

"I've been working in the national weather service for 27 years, mostly in New York and Pennsylvania and I've never seen damage like this before. It was pretty strong," said Dave Nicosia, National Weather Service.

The tornado even ripped gas lines off some businesses The U Haul facility had a propane leak that was capped Thursday morning.

Despite all the damage, six people were hurt in the storm.

Luzerne County officials gave Governor Tom Wolf a firsthand look in the damage zone once it was safe.

"I'm just thankful that with all this devastation, we had so few people hurt," the governor said.

The path of this tornado was so narrow that it only knocked over a few of flower pots but about 20 yards away, it ripped a box truck in half.

"We're talking about 23 businesses right now that have some severe structural damage to them that would have to be closed. it's a major hit to Wilkes-Barre Township here," said Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri.

But Pedri says these businesses will rebuild.

Kenneth Scarlatt owns a nearby nightclub and is already trying to figure out what to do next after seeing the storm last night.

"To think it could happen, 100 feet, the funnel of the cloud run 100 feet from where you're standing. It's pretty crazy," Scarlatt said.

Luzerne County officials are also concerned about the threat of looting. They tell Newswatch 16 they'll have officers from various agencies here keeping an eye on things as clean up continues.

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