Schenectady County

Owners of horse farm devastated by tornado planning to rebuild

More than two dozen volunteers descended upon the Pedersen farm Tuesday to begin sorting through the

Amid the tangle of brush and downed trees along the periphery of Tracy and Brian Pedersen’s horse farm sat a brand new microwave still in its box.

Brian Pedersen had stowed the appliance in the garage until his wife decided what to do with the old one. Then an EF2 tornado laid ruin to the farm, leveling all but one side of the two-story structure and haphazardly splaying its contents in random places throughout the property last week.

Heavy equipment like a snowmobile belonging to Pedersen’s brother Kevin and an auger attachment for the farm’s tractor landed in a pile about 50 feet from where the garage stood. The microwave, however, flew hundreds of feet into the trees along the edge of the property, where it remained until being discovered by a volunteer helping in the cleanup effort Tuesday.

“It was out in the woods somewhere,” said Diane Pedersen, Brian’s mother, as she gestured toward the trees.

The tornado spawned somewhere along Route 30 in the Montgomery County town of Florida on May 29 was initially graded an EF1, according to a path plotted by the National Weather Service in Albany. But as it moved southeast toward Mariaville Lake, the twister picked up strength and had winds in excess of 125 mph as it came upon the Pedersen farm off South Shore Road.

The results were devastating. What took Pedersen and a few helpers more than two years to build was destroyed in a matter of seconds.

The twister effortlessly ripped to pieces a massive indoor riding ring and shredded the roof of the study main barn. Swaths of metal from the stable and adjacent garage only recently completed were later discovered on properties miles away.

“They could see this for two miles,” he said of the green and white metal siding ripped from the two structures, “bits and pieces of it everywhere.”

The tornado toppled a cluster of mature pine trees near the family’s home, snapping their massive trunks like matchsticks. Shattered bits of wood were shot through the walls of their home, which was shifted on its foundation.

Parts of the horse paddock and outdoor riding ring were left splintered, their wood left strewn along with countless tree branches about the property. Intact portions of the ruined buildings were flung deep into the woods, which were left unnavigable by the power of the tornado.

Pedersen was also swept up by the tornado and flung some distance out of the barn, but miraculously escaped its clutches without serious injury. Though bearing a scalp full of stitches and a body covered with bruises, he worked tirelessly with a chain saw throughout the afternoon, resolved to return a sense of order to his property.

But on Tuesday, he had help. More than two dozen volunteers descended upon the Pedersen farm to begin sorting through the devastation. Some were carving up some of the many downed trees. Others began sifting through piles of broken boards and twisted metal.

“It’s amazing they got all these people here,” he said. “You know how long this would have taken us to do?”

Many of them were co-workers of Tracy Pedersen at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in East Greenbush. The company leased an 18-seat bus to bring workers to the farm and outfitted them with work gloves once they got there; others, including members of Regeneron’s upper management, drove themselves to the farm Tuesday.

“We would have had a bigger crew, too, but somebody has to be back at the office,” said Danielle Gosselin, one of Tracy Pedersen’s co-workers.

The goal now is to get the farm back to a condition that will allow the Pedersens to bring their horses back. That means repairing the paddock and exercise ring and patching several large holes punched through the roof of the stall area in the barn.

Since last week, the horses have been put up at stables in Saratoga Springs and Ravena. Remarkably, there were a dozen horses on the property at the time of the tornado, some inside the barn that was ravaged by its winds, but all escaped injury.

A cannonball-sized hole was punched through the side of one occupied stall. Another large beam crashed through the roof of the stall area and was only deflected by a stack of boards that had been stowed in the barn’s rafters.

“Our vet was amazed,” said Tracy Pedersen. “There wasn’t a scratch on any of them.”

But the recovery from the storm is just beginning. The forest area where large pieces of the barn and garage were flung remains almost impassible because of downed trees, and the amount of work needed to repair the buildings damaged by the tornado is daunting.

The Pedersens are now working with their insurance company to see how much coverage they have on the ruined buildings. An initial assessment suggested only a fraction of the damage would be covered, leaving them to pick through the pieces to see what they can salvage.

Still, they remained upbeat. Tracy Pedersen said the important part is that the family and their horses survived — everything else can be fixed.

“This stuff is replaceable,” she said. “It’s sad, but it’s replaceable.”

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