Bearded men wearing suspenders and straw hats stacked cinder block after cinder block as heavy equipment quickly moved lumber.
While most of the region prepared for July 4 picnics and parades, the men worked through lunch Friday, picking up pieces of a barn blown down the day before.
“Oh, it was quick,” said Ben King, 37, the Amish farmer who owns the farm on Fordsbush Road in the town of Minden in western Montgomery County. “I can’t tell you what it really was, really. It was so quick.”
After surveying the damage Friday, the National Weather Service determined that the winds were not from a tornado, but rather were straight-line winds that reached 100 mph. The squall traveled 30 miles, from West Winfield in Herkimer County eastward to Minden in Montgomery County.
The winds lasted from 3:55 to 4:35 p.m. and left pockets of snapped and uprooted trees. The gusts downed power lines and overturned a tractor-trailer on Fordsbush Road.
When the winds reached King’s farm about 4:30 p.m., a group of men were taking a break from renovating the barn so it could hold dairy cattle, a monthlong project that had been nearly completed.
“We actually were all just getting ready to eat ice cream,” said King, who lives on the farm with his wife and seven children. “We didn’t get any.”
When the winds suddenly hit, about 20 people were in the barn, including many of the men’s wives and children who had come down for the ice cream, he said.
“We ran for that corner there, at the silo,” he said, pointing to a silo that stood tall, apparently untouched by the winds. “Some people were still in it when it was totally down.”
No one was killed or seriously hurt, he said.
“There might be a couple of broken bones, but nothing serious,” said King.
Five of his seven children were in the barn when it collapsed.
“We feel blessed,” he said.
As he surveyed the damage to King’s property Friday morning, Ray O’Keefe, a weather service meteorologist, didn’t make an immediate determination as to whether it was caused by a tornado.
He had seen plenty of trees snapped but hadn’t viewed any telltale signs of a tornado, such as shingles or roofs being ripped off by the wind.
Tornado or not, the damage was clear.
“If your barn is knocked down, you really don’t care if it was a tornado or straight-line winds,” he said.
King’s toppled barn was just one part of the damage left behind by Thursday’s storm, which took down trees and power lines across the Capital Region and left nearly 20,000 National Grid customers in eastern New York without power.
National Grid crews worked through Thursday night to restore power to customers, and about 2,800 customers mainly in Fulton, Saratoga and Washington counties were still without power early Friday evening.
The storm was a slow-moving cold front from the west, unrelated to Hurricane Arthur, weather service meteorologists said. The hurricane made landfall in North Carolina Friday morning and caused less damage than expected, but still left thousands without power before veering east out to sea.
As for King’s toppled barn in western Montgomery County, the plan is to “clean it out and rebuild,” he said. “Next week it will probably go up pretty quick.”