by Kate Shunney
Highway crews and local residents spent Saturday evening clearing debris and assessing damage from a powerful storm that blew into Morgan County at the end of a broiling hot day.
Many headed into Sunday’s heat advisory with no electrical service, and some continued into Monday still doing without power.
Damaging winds on Saturday, July 23 spread leaves and branches across the county’s main roadways and toppled trees into traveling lanes and across properties from Paw Paw to Hedgesville.
In Berkeley Springs State Park, just two hours after the Morgan County Expo wrapped up their annual activities and displays and as the summer Concert in the Park was supposed to kick off, high winds and pounding rain landed.
An aging maple tree cracked open at the base and fell across the southeastern portion of the park in the storm, with the top of the tree landing on the park bandstand. By Monday, the tree was cleaned up, and the bandstand was roped off. Minor damage was visible to the trim around the top of the structure.
From Berkeley Springs to Paw Paw, Cacapon Road was littered with small and large branches, and chunks of wood as Saturday’s storm moved east from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Travel lanes were blocked at several points, and local residents with chainsaws worked to remove a large tree across Route 9 at Wiggins Run in Great Cacapon. Residents in southern and eastern Morgan County faced the same roadblocks and downed trees. In Cacapon South, a large tree fell across one resident’s pickup truck but didn’t harm anyone or cause damage to any home
Power flickered and was lost in different parts of the county. On Saturday night, Potomac Edison was reporting that nearly 25% of their customers in Morgan County had been affected by power outages caused by the storm — 1712 customers in Berkeley Springs, 857 customers in Great Cacapon and 92 customers in Paw Paw.
On Sunday, cooling centers were opened across Morgan County at the Great Cacapon fire hall, Berkeley Springs High School, in Greenwood Community Center as a heat advisory remained in effect all day. Several area businesses also advertised that their indoor spaces were open to anyone who needed to cool down, stay hydrated and use WiFi.
By Monday afternoon, 252 Morgan County households were still without power.