It wasn't a tornado. The National Weather Service said damaging winds struck northern Stark County during Thursday night's storm.

Cliff Sprague was in a second-floor bathroom when he heard rain hitting the windows Thursday night. He turned to look out his window.

"That's when everything started to shake. And I knew at that time we were late for being in the basement," he said from the front yard of his debris-littered property at Mt. Pleasant Street NE and Peachmont Avenue.

"My wife and I, we grabbed our pets and ran to the basement. By the time we got there, it was over."

Three large pine trees and a silver maple tree alongside his house were uprooted, pieces of his fence had blown away, and siding from his house and shingles from his roof were missing.

On Friday morning, National Weather Service officials traveled from Cleveland to determine whether the storm damage was the result of a small tornado tearing through a stretch of southern Lake Township and northern Plain Township.

"It would not surprise me if this was a small tornado or some other significant wind event," Stark County Emergency Management Director Timothy Warstler earlier Friday. "The storm moved from southwest to northeast and there are trees leaning to the northwest. These are indicators that something more was going on than straight-line winds."

Turns out, he was partially correct.

The Weather Service team later determined it was likely a microburst and/or downburst that churned winds to speeds of 75 miles per hour, according to NWS meteorologist Cory Mottice.

Both types of events create strong surface winds, which can cause damage similar to what's seen in a tornado. Mottice said dry lower level air, combined with thunderstorms above, help create such wind bursts.

"It all just kind of collapses down," he said.

Weather service officials already knew the storm had whipped winds at "greater than 60 mph" through that portion of Stark County shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday.

"It was certainly stronger than that in (the affected) area, greater than 60 mph," Mottice said. "It moved through fairly quick. The whole swath of that storm involved around a half inch of rain."

Damaged areas

In addition to snapping limbs and large branches, the storm downed trees on Beeson Street NE in the Alliance area, a tree near the intersection of Strausser Street and Lake O'Springs NW in Jackson Township and a tree on Marshallville Street NW in Lawrence Township, said Dave Torrence, chief deputy engineer of the Stark County Engineer's Office. 

Warstler said the area affected most by the storm appears to be Peachmont Avenue NW and Rohrer Street south of Mt. Pleasant and the neighborhood in the Stonebridge Avenue and Strawberry Street NW. The area around Rolling Hill Avenue to Wadora Circle NW were also impacted.

"It's about a third- to a half-mile area," Warstler said, noting that several homes sustained roof damage and that some windows were blown out. "It's some very intense damage. The houses are not uninhabitable; this is going to be insured damage. But there are a couple dozen homes damaged, six to eight (of which were) significantly impacted.

The tops of some trees in the area snapped off, and some smaller trees were uprooted.

Sprague said his neighbors' homes sustained heavy damage as well.

"At the end of the day, we're not hurt. The emergency squad wasn't called for anyone in our neighborhood so that's a blessing," he said as Courtney Cotyk, 16, hauled away shingles in a wheel barrow. She had been at a friend's house down the street when he called to see if she was safe. Her friend's house was untouched by the storm.

A few streets away on Rutgers, Paul Rice was watching a replay of the Cleveland Indians game on TV. 

"Then this roar came through," he said.

He looked out from his sun porch to see his large tree had been uprooted.

Loud bang

Loretta Martin was doing bookkeeping in her home a few streets away, on Stonebridge just west of Humbert Road. She heard the vertical blinds on her open dining room window flapping. She went to close the windows and she could see "a big sheet of rain" outside. Then she heard a "boom, boom, boom," she said.

"I thought the mop fell in the laundry room," she said.

What fell was far larger — the large tree in her back yard had snapped.

Jeff and Dottie Young were getting ready for bed when the storm blew in.

"It was lightning and we heard the loud bang," Dottie Young said.

Then the nearly 60-foot pin oak tree came down into the family room of the home on Mt. Pleasant Street.

"It knocked some things off the walls and poked a few holes through," she said. "We had two cars in the driveway and the only thing we lost was a tail light."

Her next-door neighbor, Carol Matchett, was in her family room when she heard "a funny noise," looked out her front door, "and there sat my tree." The large pine tree had snapped in half, leaving the bottom half in the ground and still decorated with her squirrel feeders.

Plain Township officials announced Friday morning that the yard waste drop-off location at 2855 Easton St. NE will remain open for residents with storm debris. Extended hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or lori.steineck@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @lsteineckREP