A large canopy collapsed at a convenience store during a heavy thunderstorm Saturday.
A large canopy collapsed at a convenience store during a heavy thunderstorm Saturday.

Several bolts of lightning were reported before a large canopy collapsed at a convenience store during a heavy thunderstorm in what the National Weather Service described as a microburst on Saturday afternoon.

The canopy collapsed at the Shell, 1530 Highway 16 west near Williamsville, about 4:17 p.m., according to 911 records, leaving tin crumpled around vehicles and gas pumps.

No injuries were reported, but 11 vehicles were under the canopy and six of those sustained unspecified damages, according to officials.

“I couldn't believe it. I couldn’t even see the store from the highway,” store employee Joann Johnson told WTOK about reporting to work right after the collapse. “It was just nothing. All I could see was rubble.”

Police said high winds from the storm system caused the collapse, but the Philadelphia Fire Department said it was the weight of the water brought on by the sudden downpour.

Fire officials told WTOK they believe the roof was just not strong enough to hold all of the water that had been building in that short amount of time.

“I’m assuming that the load of the water on the roof couldn’t take it and caused the sides of it to just collapse down,” Battalion Chief Scott Clark told WTOK.

Abraham Alnaham, the son of the operator, said that he was inside at the time of the collapse and witnessed three lightning strikes.

Alnaham said the eastern-facing portion of the canopy collapsed and shortly thereafter the western portion collapsed.

“The rain was really coming down,” Alnaham said. “You couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from. I think the lighting either hit one of the posts or hit the roof.”

Clark said he did not see any evidence of a lightning strike. He said he believes the roof came down from a combination of wind and rain.

Emergency Management Director Darrell Wilson said the National Weather Service notified them of a microburst in the area about the same time.

A microburst is an intense small-scale downdraft produced by a thunderstorm.

Alnaham said that while most of the customers were inside, there were a few pumping gas under the canopy.

“It was so good that no one was hurt,” he said.

Alnaham said when the canopy went down he immediately turned off the main breaker in the store.

“We are taught to turn off the main breakers which shuts off everything including the pumps,” he said.

There are six pumps at the store with fueling available on each side.

Alnaham also said that one of the customers reported seeing a tornado about 200 yards southeast of the store, but officials said there was no tornado.

No damage was reported inside the store.

The property is leased from Philadelphia-based Prince Oil Co., Inc., a distributor of petroleum products and operator of convenience stores and casual dining establishments in Mississippi and Alabama, according to their website.