BREAKING: Tornado Strikes Martinsburg, West Virginia

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Jason Unger
Photo Courtesy: Jason Unger

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UPDATE at 12:39 a.m., June 17, 2016: 

During the confusion of today’s West Virginia tornado, it was believed that the weather event was to be blamed for a multi-vehicle accident that occurred on Interstate 81 near exit 16 in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

It has since been reported that the accident occurred just minutes prior to the tornado and was apparently a separate incident altogether from the weather event, though emergency services were complicated thanks to the tornado.    Click here to read this article.

Photo of I-81 accident believed to have been caused by tornado. Photo Credit: Tommy Weatherholtz Jr.
Photo of I-81 accident believed to have been caused by tornado. Photo Credit: Tommy Weatherholtz Jr.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Appalachian Magazine has received multiple reports of a tornado possibly touching down in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.

Eyewitness Jason Unger was traveling south on Interstate 81 near Exit 16 in Martinsburg when he snapped a photo of what appeared to be a tornado on the western side of the interstate, inside the corporate limits of Martinsburg.

Though at this time it is unclear as to the extent of any damage, eyewitnesses have reported seeing an overturned tractor-trailer on I-81 near the location of the tornado.

According to WeatherIntel, the tornado may have started somewhere between Hancock, Maryland, and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, before tracking southeast toward Harpers Ferry (the tornado never reached Harpers Ferry) through the center of the Eastern Panhandle.

In a separate incident, at 5:51 p.m., the National Weather Service tweeted: “TORNADO WARNING near Berryville VA; TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!”, roughly 20 miles south of Martinsburg.

At 5:47 p.m., the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia, issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the area, stating that residents in the Eastern Panhandle of the Mountain State should “get indoors to protect yourself from wind and lightning… trees around you may be downed from damaging winds… move to an interior room on the lowest floor…”

The notice went on to state “tornado… possible.”

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is advising residents are in the region “Tornado Warning: Go to a windowless, interior room on the lowest level. Mobile homes are not safe. Seek shelter in a sturdy building… Warning while in your car – Best: Seek shelter in sturdy bldg., not under bridge or overpass. Next best: Lie in a ditch or culvert.”

In addition to the tornado danger, National Weather Service officials are urging residents and motorists to be mindful of the dangers of what they are referring to as “very large hail.”

This is a developing story — reload page at 6:40 p.m.

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