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What you need to know for 12/12/2017

'This is like once in a million years': Tornado damages property in Broadalbin

'This is like once in a million years': Tornado damages property in Broadalbin

No injuries reported

A tornado touched down in Broadalbin Friday afternoon, obliterating two barn structures and damaging a third near the intersection of routes 107 and 126.

“I saw the roof fly off the [barn], took the kids and ran into the bathroom,” said resident Ann Furman. “It was black as night, everything started blowing, the wind and the rain, then the roof blew off and we ran.”

Everything was over in less than 30 seconds, she said, and she was mostly fearful for her kids’ safety. The barn belongs to her parents, who live next door but were vacationing in Cape Cod. After it was over she called them and they returned from vacation Saturday morning to assess the damage.

Bob Baird, Furman’s father, said he stores cars and tractors in the barn, which he doesn’t have access to until a claims adjuster visits the property.

“It was pretty bad looking,” said Baird of when they arrived at the property Saturday morning.

“I was upset,” said Carol Baird, Bob’s wife and Furman’s mother, when she saw the damage.

The Bairds' backyard was strewn with debris, including what looked like slivers of wood siding that were embedded into the ground.

“That’s what kills people; that came from the Lane’s house,” she said.

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The roof of the barn was peeled back as if it were a half-opened tin can, exposing the interior of the structure.

The barn contained two pickup trucks, an antique tractor and an Oldsmobile Cutlass, which Carol Baird said she kept in pristine condition and only has 14,000 miles on it. The extent of the damage to the vehicles is unknown.

The tornado appears to have touched down in a field adjacent to a series of homes on the south side of County Route 107, moving west to east for about a half-mile. It cut a distinct path mere yards behind the homes, destroying trees and prefabricated structures where cars and equipment were being stored. No injuries were reported.

The homes themselves were left mostly intact, though shingles and siding were ripped off of Richard Lane’s home, and a hole was punched in the side of Penny Farquhar’s home.

Lane was sitting on his porch Saturday afternoon, writing out a check to a tree service company that was helping with the cleanup. His barn, which was more of a prefabricated structure where he stored a collection of Chrysler TCs, was suspended in his neighbor’s tree as if it were a weightless plastic bag.

“I was on my way home and came around the corner and saw my building, and no siding,” said Lane, adding that he was “surprised” to see his barn in a tree.

Several pine trees in Lane’s backyard were ripped at the base of their trunks and strewn across the property, including on his Chrysler TCs.

“This is like once in a million years,” said Jeremy Farone of Farone’s Tree Service, who was hired by Lane. “I’ve lived in Broadalbin-Perth my whole life and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Jennifer Hakes, who lives next door to Lane, said she was in her kitchen when the tornado struck Friday around 3:50 p.m.

“Stuff on the deck went one way, some if it fell the other way, the limb came off the tree, and then I went in the basement,” said Hakes.

A large tree in her backyard was split at the base, a portion of the trunk lying across the lawn. Another tree was uprooted altogether. The chickens in a nearby fenced-in area were left unharmed, having taken refuge in their coop that was mere yards from the tornado’s path.

Nate Hakes, Jennifer’s husband, said members of the National Weather Service in Albany visited their property and determined the tornado started in a field just west of their home. It narrowly missed their barn but blew the door of its track.

“The National Weather Service said we’re lucky it’s still standing,” said Nate Hakes. “I was at work, she called me in a panic from the basement. We’re OK, we got lucky.”

Jennifer Hakes said her only concern was getting her and the family pet to safety.

“Just to get the cat and get in the basement,” she said of what was going through her mind. “I grabbed my phone first. I was worried about my fig tree. It was on the deck and it got knocked over but it was fine.”

Reached by phone, Penny Farquhar, who lives on the other side of Lane and whose tree now contains his barn, said her 15-year-old son was home at the time of the tornado.

“He was in the house when it went through, he said everything got black,” said Farquhar. “He said he saw everything flying around and he called me screaming.”

“I was scared for him,” she said.

Farquhar, who was in Niagara Falls at the time of the tornado, said the local fire department told her the barn in her tree is too unstable to take down, and she has to wait for the insurance company to assess the situation.

In addition to Lane’s car barn a second barn was completely destroyed to the south of Baird’s home.

Steve DiRienzo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, confirmed that three NWS officials traveled to Broadalbin to survey the tornado’s path.

“Most of the time the reports [of tornados] are bogus but in this case it seemed like there was good reason to go out there,” he said. “There were eyewitnesses who said they saw it and the damage was consistent with a tornado.”

DiRienzo said in the 19-county area NWS Albany covers, there is an average of 2-3 tornados a year. But, he added, there have been years with eight tornadoes and years with none.

Despite the damage, DiRienzo said the tornado was not particularly strong and only touched down for a matter of minutes.

“To get a really strong tornado is unusual, but this one was on the low end of the scale,” he said. “It did a lot of damage obviously and was life threatening but it was short-lived, thankfully.”

NWS Albany on Friday evening reported that the tornado was an “EF-1" in force, with an estimated maximum wind speed of 90 mph. Meteorologist Ingrid Amberger said such tornadoes are measured between 86 and 110 mph, causing moderate damage such as stripping roofs and overturning mobile homes.

"An EF-5 is over 200 mph," Amberger said. "It's the type where a home is no longer present. It will take a house off its slab."

DiRienzo on Saturday afternoon said that the area weather service received one other report of a tornado so far this year, in Dutchess County on May 31.

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