Severe winds damage Light Up Middletown archway

Mother Nature was not kind to the Grandpa Gang’s efforts as Saturday’s severe winds damaged the Light Up Middletown entry archway tunnel at Smith Park.

A group of the Grandpa Gang was already on the scene early Sunday afternoon taking apart sections of the 80-foot long archway tunnel which is the gateway to the annual holiday lighting event which features 50 to 60 lighted displays.

Bill Becker, Light Up Middletown chairman, said police cordoned off the area near the damaged structure until volunteers could arrive. He said the volunteers would be working on repairing the structure on Monday.

“Hopefully, it’s not damaged beyond repair,” Becker said.

Middletown police said the damage was reported to dispatchers about 7:42 p.m. According to Chris Hogue, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, peak wind speeds were reported at 47 mph at the Butler County Airport and at 43 mph about three miles east of New Miami between 7 and 8 p.m. Saturday.

Bob Strassburger and several others from the Grandpa Gang were working to untangle the sections of the metal frame so that they could be taken to a welder to be repaired to rebuild the metal frame.

Strassburger said it took the Grandpa Gang nearly two and a half days to erect the structure. However, they had not strung up the lights on the structure, he said.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t have any lights on or we would have had one whale of a mess,” he said.

Strassburger said it takes volunteers a full day just to string the lights in that structure each year.

“The rest of the displays are all OK, thank heavens…,” he said. “We should have them ready (by the opening on Thanksgiving).”

Minimal damage was reported Sunday morning in a check of local police dispatchers around Butler County. There were some reports of power outages in Butler and Warren counties, but much of that had been resolved. According to Duke Energy’s website, there are more than 200 customers in Butler and Warren counties that are still without power as of 4 p.m.

Warren County Communications Center dispatchers said there were wires and tree limbs down reported throughout the county. Dispatchers said as of 4 p.m. Sunday, Socialville-Fosters Road between Stablegate Drive and the Old 3 C Highway in Deerfield Twp. was still closed so that crews from Duke Energy and the Warren County Engineer’s Office could clear debris and repair downed power lines.

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