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Intense storm damages buildings and vehicles in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Jade Jarvis, WOLF

WILKES-BARRE TWP. (WOLF) -- Strong storms ripped through Wilkes-Barre Township in Luzerne County Wednesday night.

Damaging several businesses, tossing cars, and prompting a huge response from local emergency crews, including more than 14 local fire companies, 12 EMS units, and 7 police departments.

Debris littered the parking lot at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre Township Wednesday night.

The remnants of a powerful storm that took just minutes to cause minor injuries to six people and extensive damage to this typically busy shopping hub, home to stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Panera Bread.

Both now nearly unrecognizable.

“We are extremely fortunate, and thank God this happened at 9:30 and not at 6:30. If this occurred at 6:30 during the rush business hours, we would have had a much worse situation,” John Jablowski, a Wilkes-Barre Twp. councilman, said.

The storm tore a half-to-one-mile path just before 10 o’clock, knocking out power for thousands and accompanied by a tornado warning.

Township officials have no doubt that’s what caused all this damage.

“In our opinion, it’s a tornado. We want the NWS to agree with us, but it was a tornado. Unquestionably a tornado,” Jablowski said.

Those winds were strong enough to pick up cars from this Nissan dealership on Mundy Street and throw them several feet away.

The devastation drawing dozens out to watch.

“I just don’t think I’ve ever seen a U-Haul on top of another U-Haul before. But I’ve never seen anything like this, ever,” Dennis Draeger, of Ashley, said.

The National Weather Service plans to send a team to the area Thursday morning to assess the damage, with a final report expected by late afternoon.

But in the meantime, officials are taking care of a leaking propane cylinder and making sure the area is safe before people are allowed back in.

The Luzerne County Emergency Operations Center is also in effect.

“Lot of money in damages. And people, if their jobs and stuff like that if they don’t have power. They can’t go to work, they can’t make money to support their families,” Draeger said.

The six people who sustained minor injuries were treated at the scene. No one needed to be hospitalized.

Mundy Street between Bear Creek Boulevard and Highland Park Boulevard will be closed throughout Thursday afternoon.

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