Wednesday night storm damages golf clubhouse near Bel Air, tears down trees

The Aegis

A thunderstorm that rolled through the Fallston and Bel Air areas late Wednesday night also brought high winds that damaged at least one building and tore down a number of trees, one which fell on a house.

Part of the clubhouse roof and an awning at the Winters Run Golf Club were blown off and other damage was done to the building, plus numerous trees were blown over, when the storm came through shortly after 10:30 p.m., club officials said.

The private club is 1000 block of North Tollgate Road between Fallston and Bel Air.

The awning, which had covered an outdoor dining area at the rear, or west side, of the clubhouse, ended up in front of the building, which also may have suffered structural damage.

In an emailed update to club members sent shortly after noon Thursday, Winters Run club pro Dave Bubb wrote: “As morning dawned we not only had severe damage to the clubhouse, but also a healthy dose of tree damage from #2 green all the way to the 1st tee. A large tree fell across the path just beyond #3 bridge.”

“Short term we would expect that the course will be ready first, then possibly the pro shop,” Bubb wrote. “However, the grill room may be a while because of structural damage and damage to our venting system for the grill and kitchen. The business office was essentially destroyed and we are working on a short term solution for them.”

Bubb wrote that emergency construction people arrived at the scene at 6 a.m. and they were waiting on an insurance adjuster and a structural engineer, “before we can really make any definitive decisions about how we are going to operate short term.”

A photographer who visited the club Thursday morning was told by several people there that the damage seemed to be consistent with a wind micoburst or mini-tornado.

The storm came with heavy rains — more than half an inch fell around most of Harford County, while other areas of Harford got three quarters of an inch or more than 1 inch, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Pallozzi.

The NWS received two reports of damage from winds, including tree damage on Terra Bella Court in Fallston — near Winters Run Golf Club — that was reported at 10:35 p.m. A second report was made at 10:45 p.m. regarding trees on wires in the 1300 block of Trappe Road in Street, according to Pallozzi.

There had been “no other notable damage” in the county, and there had been some fire and EMS calls related to the storm, but county emergency services experienced a “normal call volume overall” Wednesday night, Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for the county government, wrote in a text message Thursday afternoon.

The storm-related calls concerned rain, lightning and fallen trees. Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies initially responded to the golf club when a burglar alarm went off and found the damage to the building. No injuries were reported there, Mumby stated in a follow-up email.

Gina Hormes, whose family lives in the 900 block of Terra Bella, was on the Eastern Shore, traveling to Ocean City with her two daughters Wednesday night when she received a call from her 23-year-old son, Jake, that a tree had fallen on their house.

Hormes returned home Thursday morning. The oak tree, which she estimates is more than 100 years old, had punctured the roof. There is also water damage to the second floor and kitchen, she said in a telephone interview.

“There is just debris everywhere outside,” she said.

Her son was sitting on the couch downstairs, watching television when the tree fell.

“The whole roof is destroyed, but he was thankfully not up in his room, so he’s safe,” Hormes said.

Hormes and her family — her husband, three children, a dog and a cat — have lived in their house for about 25 years. She said her children would climb the oak tree or swing on swings attached to it as their parents pushed them.

“Our dog would grab the bottom of the swing and swing the kids as well, so we have some memories of [the tree],” she said.

Hormes said her son and neighbors reported feeling their houses shake for about 10 seconds from the wind. Those reports, and a visible line of damage, led her to suspect a tornado had hit.

“It was definitely a tornado,” she said.

James Lee, another NWS meteorologist, confirmed a line of thunderstorms passed through Harford County Wednesday night, with the worst of the bad weather hitting Bel Air around 10:40 p.m.

Weather service data indicates winds were rotating within the storm 6,000 feet above ground level, according to Lee. He said “it is still questionable” whether conditions were “tornadic” on the ground, though.

Meteorologists would need more information, such as eyewitness or video accounts of a tornado, or an in-person analysis of the damage, to determine whether a tornado hit, he said.

“Certainly it looks like there’s some pretty significant damage that went on last night,” Lee said after viewing Aegis photos of storm damage posted online.

He warned that Harford County is under a flash flood watch Thursday — a flash flood watch has been issued for Central Maryland, Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, plus Northern Virginia through 8 a.m. Friday, according to the NWS website.

Lee urged drivers to “turn around — don’t try to cross flooded roadways.”

The county government does not have any reports of a tornado, but Mumby issued a similar warning about avoiding high water Thursday and Friday.

“With the ground already saturated, we could see more trees come down,” she stated.

avought@theaegis.com

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