Severe weather damages downtown building

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 28, 2004

Downtown Greenville received a scare Wednesday afternoon when heavy winds caused the roof of a Commerce Street building to blow off.

Severe weather had been brewing in the area for several hours causing power outages throughout the day.

However, the bad weather had been nothing more than an annoyance prior to mid-afternoon.

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Around 2:50 in the evening a gust of wind raised the roof of the building causing it to peel back.

The roof continued to roll back into waiting power lines causing a great deal of sparks until the electricity was shut down.

Fortunately, no one was injured, and all those in the building were able to escape to safety.

The cause for the disturbance left many wondering if small tornados had touched down.

However, this was not the case.

Meteorologist Gary Beeler, who monitors the weather in Butler County for the National Weather Service in Mobile, said no twisting winds were responsible.

&uot;It was probably the way the wind hit it,&uot; said Beeler. &uot;We are not sure why it damaged only the one building, but we do know that it was not a tornado.&uot;

Butler County Weather Coordinator Bob Luman agreed with Beeler.

Luman said that though there was no tornado there were winds blowing at dangerous speeds. Luman said that the way that these winds react with the climate could have a damaging effect.

&uot;A lot of times what can happen is the hot air moves up into the cold air, cools off and gets heavy,&uot; said Luman. &uot;Because it is heavy it comes back to the ground at a high speed.&uot;

Luman likened the reaction of the air to pouring out a glass of water.

&uot;Once it hits the ground it goes everywhere,&uot; said Luman. &uot;As it does that it picks up more speed and that is probably what helped it get under the roof and cause so much damage.&uot;

Luman said that other than severe winds no other problems could be found.

&uot;We had them look back at the radar at about the time it happened in Mobile,&uot; said Luman. &uot;They couldn’t seem to find anything aside from the winds.&uot;

Luman and the National weather service both estimated wind speeds to be around 45-50 miles per hour at the time of the damage.

The Greenville airport had reported wind speeds of over 30 miles per hour. However, winds were thought to be higher at the site of the damage..

&uot;We believe that the wind had more speed in the downtown area,&uot; said Beeler. &uot;Just from the damage done and the distance between downtown and the airport it is very feasible that the wind speeds were greater.&uot;

The Police, Fire department and Power Company all responded quickly to secure the area.

Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram had heavy praise for all those involved and advice for the citizens of Greenville.

&uot;We appreciate the quick response by everyone to get out there and block the road to prevent injuries,&uot; said Ingram. &uot;We also want to remind people that electricity in a situation like that can be very dangerous. People should always stay clear of lines in a situation like that until the fire department or power company can arrive and shut the power down.

Luman encouraged people to attend the local Emergency Planning Committee meetings to help them be better prepared for such situations.

&uot;We plan to set some meeting times pretty soon,&uot; said Luman. &uot;We are going to plan for severe things that can affect our local area and I think it will be very helpful.&uot;

Once meeting times are established the public is encouraged to attend.