Montgomery County

Cranesville twister ruined forested land (with photos)

It will take a while for residents in Cranesville to get used to the new view and noise they’ve been

It will take a while for residents in Cranesville to get used to the new view and noise they’ve been protected from over the years by the stately trees that were shredded Sept. 4.

It only took an estimated 15 minutes for a Level 1 tornado to rip up buildings, uproot trees, tear off limbs and scar the view in Cranesville, according to the National Weather Service.

“The landscape is completely changed,” said Vittorio Valentino, who was trimming felled trees Wednesday behind his family’s restaurant off Riverview Drive. Valentino, who has been running Valentino’s for 28 years, said several old trees that “reached to the sky” near the dining room came down that day. Cracked by winds as fierce as 110 mph, the broken trees damaged the eatery’s roof and sent rain into the ceilings.

“It was shade … now it’s all open,” he said.

Instead of a shady view of trees, the view out the dining room window toward the south now features the dusty workings of the Cushing Stone Co. quarry in the town of Florida on the opposite side of the Mohawk River.

The noise, Valentino said, is also greater. But he sees one positive, aside from the fact that nobody got hurt: The restaurant is now visible to motorists on state Route 5S and on the state Thruway, both on the other side of the Mohawk River.

Trees that made up a large patch of woods between the Mohawk’s northern shore and train tracks were snapped in half, leaving little buffer for the noise of the quarry — which has grown since the recent floods caused a major demand for more stone.

Noise is also coming from the massive reconstruction project at the Canal Corp.’s Lock E-10, which sustained severe damage in the recent flooding.

The tornado left more than noise and aesthetic problems.

Amsterdam Town Supervisor Tom DiMezza said the trees lost along the ridge line to the north of state Route 5 were playing an important role holding soil in place. “These are trees that were rooted deep into the ground. Now they’re gone and the roots are gone. What’s going to happen to the land?” he said.

The town spent roughly $300,000 repairing Knickerbocker Road, which collapsed after fierce rainfall in the summer of 2005 weakened the slope, sending tons of debris onto state Route 5. With the ground already saturated, DiMezza said the lack of tree roots could lead to trouble in the event of another heavy rainfall event.

“There’s some steep embankments there and already people are concerned. It’s very susceptible at this point,” he said.

He estimates the tornado caused about $500,000 in damage in the hamlet. There’s more work to be done as well, DiMezza said. The Evas Kill that runs through the hamlet, similar to other creeks and streams in the region, is strewn with rocks and debris from high water.

FEMA disaster aid doesn’t apply to the tornado damage, according to FEMA spokesman Chris McKniff.

But some residents said their homeowner’s insurance companies were paying for repairs. “We’re doing all right here,” said Dan Kowalczyk, of Cranes Hollow Road, who already has fresh grass growing on his front lawn in place of a pine tree that got ripped out of the ground.

Kowalczyk, who serves as caretaker at the Temple of Israel Cemetery that’s now clearly visible from state Route 5, said the cemetery still needs more work but all the headstones that were toppled are now back where they belong.

The cemetery lost at least 10 trees, and many still have to be taken down because they lost the limbs with foliage and will likely start to die. “They got to come down,” he said.

Kowalczyk’s garage sustained roof damage, as did a Jeep he used for plowing. He said insurance was helping to cover the costs for his property.

Nurse’s aide Tammy Rose of Hagaman, who was doing some yard work for one of her patients, said Wednesday she didn’t recognize the neighborhood when she arrived a week after the tornado came through.

“It’s bare,” she said, pointing toward the once-shady cemetery that’s now getting full sun.

There were “beautiful trees” lining the ridge between Cranes Hollow Road and the hilltop Valentino’s Restaurant. Now, the ridge is lined with logs and remnants.

“It’s just ripped up,” Rose said.

DEC Region 4 spokesman Rick Georgeson in an e-mail Wednesday said it’s unclear yet if the increased noise in the neighborhood can be attributed to the loss of trees or the uptick in mining and reconstruction at the lock. The agency responds to complaints regarding noise at mining facilities and, if warranted, reviews mining permits to see if it can be mitigated, he said.

According to the National Weather Service, the Sept. 4 tornado touched down from 5:20 to 5:35 p.m. It had a path up to a half-mile wide and 7 miles long. It was the first of two that hit Montgomery County last month. A smaller twister, ranked a zero, ran through the town of Glen at about 6:15 p.m. with estimated maximum wind speeds of 70 mph. It had a path 50 yards wide and about 1 mile long, according to the National Weather Service.

Categories: Schenectady County

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