STILLWATER – After surviving the 1998 Mechanicville tornado, two residents of McDermott Road in Stillwater thought they were safe.
An EF1 tornado with estimated winds of 100 mph lasted less than a minute, traveled less than a quarter mile, but it is something they will never forget – again.
Kristen Mohan just gave birth to her daughter, Reese, 17 days ago and fate placed her outside the home she previously lived in with her 3-year-old son and husband.
“We were staying at my parents, right next door,” Mohan said. “My husband and son were outside.
“I got a warning on my phone at exactly 5:15 p.m. that there was a tornado warning, but they put them out, honestly, all the time in the watches. We really didn’t believe it.”
Her son, Cole, was heading to his new trampoline before the expected rain arrived, but the family got much more than that.
“I hear my husband yelling outside, he throws my son at me, sees that our house is gone and runs next door to save our dogs,” she said. “I didn’t really see much, hear much, it just sounded like a freight train coming through in a matter of seconds.”
The roof was completely torn off, the front end of the trailer is now a gaping hole and any nearby tree was ripped up and torn from the ground.
“It had a lot of sentimental value; it has a lot of little trinkets from my grandparents that are still in there,” she said. “We thankfully got [grandfather’s] flag from him being in the National Guard; that was on his casket when he was laid to rest.
“There are a couple other things that hopefully we can still salvage, but everything else is gone.”
The Mohans had just built a new home on the property, farther back from the road, and it was spared from the storm path.
The short storm also took its toll on another familiar building, her former great grandparents’ home at the intersection of McDermott Road and Route 75, now owned by Lisa Graziene.
What was once a shady front lawn is now filled with downed trees, numerous large tree sections cut for removal and a tarp secured over the rear slate roof.
“A lot of damage to my barn roofs, my turnout pens down in the back are completely destroyed,” Graziene said. “All stuff that can be repaired.”
She was also fooled by the impending tornado warning.
“We were sitting on the side of that porch, the tornado warning went off on my phone,” she said. “We’re like it’s not bad and then we looked that way [east] and it was forming.
“We saw the funnel coming and got in the house and I got through the kitchen door, shut the kitchen door and trees started falling, everything started breaking.”
The terror didn’t last long and once it was over, Graziene and her two adult daughters, Bryanna and Elizabeth, said their thoughts were about getting out of the farmhouse.
“We couldn’t get out of the house; we ended up coming out through the front because we couldn’t go off the end of the porch,” she said. “This [yard] was just a mass of trees everywhere.”
Again, Graziene’s thoughts were about life and limb.
“All eight horses, everybody is good,” she said. “All this stuff can be repaired, it’ll take time.”
For the two neighbors, yards apart on the same south side of McDermott Road, help came immediately as both yards were filled with friends, family, and heavy equipment looking to return the site to safety.
“When I had my baby 17 days ago, they all came together then,” Kristen Mohan said. “They moved some stuff out and got the stuff together for us, my husband and the baby.
“To see it happen again, just so soon, shows us that people care. There are good people still out there and thankfully we have a good tribe behind us.”
“This yard filled up really fast, as I stood there crying, saying, ‘what am I going to do?’ ” Lisa Graziene said. “Everybody just started pitching in. These tree guys have been fabulous, everybody.”
In 1998, Mohan was in her great-grandparents’ house when the tornado devastated portions of Mechanicville and Stillwater. Graziene lived in Mechanicville at the time.
Both survived unscathed what they thought was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“I didn’t think that it could hit twice so closely to each other,” said Mohan, who was 11 years old during the 1998 storm. “It wasn’t damaged back then. To see it damaged now; it kind of brings back some memories.”
For Graziene, it is still a lot to process.
“It’s not even anger, I’m just kind of in a fog, honestly, because this can’t happen twice,” she said. “This was just a cruel reminder of here we go again.”
Just a few miles away, another EF1 tornado touched down in Schaghticoke Saturday evening, with estimated winds of 110 mph, a wider path of 100 yards and traveling more than one mile. One house was damaged on Verbeck Avenue, a backyard shed was lost and several large trees were uprooted. There was also roof damage to the Hoosick Valley elementary and high school building roofs.
The National Weather Service in Albany issued its preliminary findings, calling both the Stillwater and Schaghticoke events as EF1 tornadoes, considered weak with wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph.
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