The tornado damage was sporadic and contained within a larger area of straight-line wind damage, weather observers said.
Officials said 50 structures were damaged, including several barns that were destroyed. Two small high-tension towers and thousands of trees were toppled. The county emergency management office estimated damage at $3 million to $5 million.
In Drumore Township, high-tension electrical towers were bent to the ground, leaving about 30,000 PPL customers without power, spokesman Jim Nulton said. He said the towers were designed to hold up during heavy snow and strong winds.
"It had to be pretty horrific," he told the Lancaster Sunday News. Bonnie Henry told the paper that her Strasburg Township home was spared but that wind snapped off trees and collapsed a nearby barn.
"We never heard anything like that before," she said of the loud wind.
The tornado, which was up to 200 yards wide, was not on the ground the entire time, officials said.
"It more or less bounced up and down," said Randy Gockley, director of the county emergency management agency.
He and agency spokesman Duane Hagelgans inspected the damage Saturday and said the ground-level view initially indicated damage due to straight-line winds. The view from above, however, told a different story.
"There were a lot of hills and valleys, places that weren't easily accessible," Gockley said. "But we were able to get two meteorologists up in a helicopter and they saw overwhelming evidence - pockets where there was definite rotational damage."
Gockley told the paper no one reported having actually seen the twister, but he's not surprised.
"Considering the rain coming down so heavy and that it was nighttime, it would've been extremely difficult for anyone to see it," he said.
He said it was an unusual time of year for a tornado, and no warnings or watches had been issued, not even for a thunderstorm.
"There was nothing to indicate something of this magnitude was coming," Gockley said. "But Mother Nature has a mind of her own, I guess."