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Severe storm sweeps through area

By Charles Young

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A severe thunderstorm uprooted a tree and caused it to fall onto a Kanawha City home Thursday evening.  

Penny Atkins, the daughter of Fred and Sandy Combs, who own the home, said her parents were not in their Washington Avenue home when the large tree fell.

She said the tree fell into the left side of the house, where the living room and bedroom are, causing parts of the roof and walls to collapse. The garage, located in the rear of the house, was also damaged, along with a truck that was parked in front of it. 

"They were getting ready to come home," she said. "If it had been probably 10 minutes later, they'd have been home. They would have probably been in that room. That's right where the bed would be; I'm glad this just happen at night time."

Atkins, who lives down the street from her parents, said she was at home when the storm began about 5 p.m. Along with strong winds and torrential rains, she said the storm brought penny-sized hail that damaged windows and destroyed screens.

She said a neighbor stopped by her house and to let her know the tree had fallen.

"We got up here as soon as we could and we found it just like this," she said. "I've never seen so much damage in my life." 

The damage, she said, was not only to the home itself but also to its contents. In the rooms the tree landed on were family heirlooms like photographs and furniture that could not be replaced.

Atkins said her parents were in the process of contacting their home insurance agent and did not yet have any estimation of the cost of the damage.

Firefighters on the scene said they were still assessing the damage as well, and that it was too early to make any definitive calls about if the home would need to be demolished. Atkins wondered out loud if more could have been done to maintain trees around the city following last June's derecho, a much larger storm that caused similar damage all over Charleston.

She pointed up to a large tree standing opposite the one that had fallen, noting several dead branches that had never been removed. With another storm, she said, the same thing could happen again.  

"I'm just praying that there's no more rain," she said.

Atkins said the firefighters told her that removing the fallen tree was the responsibility of city workers, who had not yet arrived.

Sam Carpenter, who lives near Atkins, said he was at Capital High School walking his dog just before the storm hit.

Carpenter said that while he was on his way home, he saw the storm approaching and was caught in the rain and hail.

"It seems like this was about as bad or worse than last year," he said. 

Atkins said she couldn't speak for her parent's plans about repairing the home or remaining there, but she said that if it if were her house she would move as quickly as possible.

"Even if it's repaired it'll never be the same, structurally; it's just like a car," she said. "I'd box everything thing up, get it in a U-haul and never come back."

During the storm and immediately after it, Charleston's Metro 911 operators received more than a dozen calls regarding downed trees. The majority of the calls where from areas north and east of Charleston.

According to the Appalachian Power outage map, more than 2,000 residents of the Kanawha Valley were without power late Thursday evening as a result of the storm.

Contact writer Charles Young at or 304-348-1796.



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