Possible tornado rips through Wilkes-Barre; multiple buildings damaged

Possible tornado rips through Wilkes-Barre; multiple buildings damaged

The storm also caused severe damage at the Arena Hub Plaza, a prominent shopping center in eastern Pennsylvania.

The investigators' report from Wilkes-Barre said the tornado damage was consistent with an EF2 strength tornado, meaning the average wind speed reached between 111 and 135 miles per hour.

"We would have had many, many more casualties", the mayor said. "It is capricious. You can see that I think from an aerial view, as I understand it, of the path of the tornado and you can see that from what was damaged and destroyed and what was left standing, like that tent full of flowers".

Debris and damaged vehicles sit in front of a auto dealership on Thursday in Wilkes-Barre.

And just across the street- near the Wyoming Valley Mall-- most businesses there dodged a major catastrophe. As of early Thursday afternoon, their live outage map showed that about 1,000 customers around Wilkes-Barre were without power.

Joy Frie told The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice that staff and patrons huddled in the kitchen of the bar where she bartends until they could escape to another business.

Storm damage in area of Arena Hub in Wilkes Barre Twp. Nico Rossi  Staff
Storm damage in area of Arena Hub in Wilkes Barre Twp. Nico Rossi Staff

There was at least some looting reported in the storm's immediate aftermath.

The roof of the building that houses Panera Bread was ripped open, for example.

Engineers are doing a structural assessment on structures in the plaza, said Stan Davis of the Keystone Incident Management Team is working with the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency to assess the conditions of buildings, and it's expected some may have to be torn down.

"Our goal here is to try to get all the utilities up and make things safe, and to try and get our businesses up and running as soon as possible", Pashinski said. National Weather Investigators will be in Bradford County Thursday to access the damage there as well.

"We will be there all day", Goldsworthy said.

The damage survey also found that the tornado touched down around 10 p.m. near Mundy Street and Highland Park Boulevard by the Wyoming Valley Mall.

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