The Fourth of July almost came early to Delanson last week.
Thursday’s EF3-rated tornado cut a path of destruction through Empire State Fireworks on 426 Old Dare Road that just missed six steel storage units filled with up to 25,000 pounds of explosives.
The tornado sent one 10,000-pound steel storage unit rolling 300 feet and another down a hill, where they both still rested on their sides Tuesday. Those units weren’t filled with fireworks.
“Fortunately, none of our explosive magazines got hit, otherwise it would have been disastrous,” said owner John Kalament, whose company provides fireworks for about 25 shows per year, including the Jumpin’ Jack’s Fourth of July display over the Mohawk River. “If those trailers had rolled like these other ones did, just the cleanup alone, we’d probably have the National Guard here.”
Two of the explosives-filled steel boxes were about 150 feet east of the tornado’s path while the other four were about 250 feet east. The estimated 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of explosives that went untouched were being stored in preparation for the busy Fourth of July season.
The two steel boxes moved by the tornado were filled with paper tubes, racks, a snow blower, a generator and a front-end loader, among other equipment and supplies — but not a single explosive.
“I don’t think you could have those containers roll over like that and not have anything go off,” Kalament said. “The potential here was really high for it to happen, but it took the correct direction, thank God.”
The two explosive-filled containers closest to the tornado’s path are much heavier than the others, at about 25,000 pounds empty, and might not have rolled as easily.
“But the way this went through here, I wouldn’t put anything past this storm,” Kalament said.
No one was on the property when the tornado came through just after 3:30 p.m. as Kalament and three workers had gone home for the day two hours before, he said.
The swirling winds lifted the tin roof off a processing building and sent part of it into a tree across the street, where it remained Tuesday. The winds also lifted the roof off a chemical storage building and picked up a shed and dropped it upright about 60 feet away next to an identical shed. The twister also downed at least 30 trees, including a few that came down on the property’s chain-link fence entrance.
The National Weather Service said the tornado’s winds maxed out at 140 mph.
“I think it came through here the worst,” Kalament said.
The damages are estimated by Kalament to cost between $60,000 and $70,000, and the damaged property wasn’t insured, he said.
He said that won’t stop Empire State Fireworks from going forward with three fireworks shows set for Saturday — college reunions at Union College and Skidmore College and Founders Day Weekend in Charlton.
The company will also supply fireworks to Fourth of July displays across the region, just like any other year, he said.
Fortunately, he said, the company had no shows over Memorial Day weekend.
“I’ve got a lot of cleaning up to do, but I’ll get it done,” he said. “It’s not going to impact my business at all.”
That might not have been the case had the twister hit closer to the Fourth of July, when even more explosives will be on the property, he said.
“But it happened at a good time for us, and it happened on the right part of the property,” he said.