|Posted on May 28, 2011 at 1:00 PM|
PINE CITY — By the strangest of coincidences, Maureen Brown was watching "The Big Bang Theory" on her television Thursday night when a severe thunderstorm darkened the sky and blew down nearby trees that, with a snap, crackle and pop, pulled the electric wires from the front side of her Pine City home.
The 1731 Pennsylvania Ave. home escaped any structural damage.
But with no electricity to run the well pump, there was no running water. There were no working appliances and access to the garage was blocked by limbs that had fallen from a large tree.
"The first things I noticed was that it got dark and the wind," Brown said as she recalled the events that took place immediately before her home and others nearby were buffeted by tornado-like winds, blinding rain and golf-ball sized hailstones around 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
"The trees were bending and the wind was making a lot of noise," she said.
"When the tree came down and took out the power, we heard a 'pop' and it took out our compressors. Every electrical appliance that we had on, we lost."
The stories told by the Browns and other homeowners living along Pennsylvania Avenue, where it crosses Seeley Creek from Pine City and travels into Webbs Mills, were all similar.
Between 8 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, a fierce storm — described by many as a tornado — blew in from the south.
Doors were blown off barns. Trees of all sizes were ripped out of the ground or snapped in half. Yard ornaments and portable barbecue grills were blown away.
Katie Smith, who lives near the southernmost intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and state Route 328, watched the wind blow "sheets of tree branches" up the road.
Her husband moved the family camper to a clear spot away from the trees beside their house at 1763 Pennsylvania Ave.
But when he climbed on the camper's roof to check for damage, he was blown off by the gusting wind and broke his arm in the fall.
Joshua Davis of 1812 Pennsylvania Ave. was working at Hilliard Corp. when a tree, uprooted by the forceful winds, fell onto the home he moved into a short eight months ago.
"My fiancée was giving my daughter a bath," Davis said.
"They heard the hail hitting and then they heard a big crash."
In the case of Gene and Donna White, the large tree on the southern side of their home at 1427 Pennsylvania Ave. was sent crashing through the roof and into what was once one of their children's bedrooms.
"We were sitting on the porch talking with my brother and sister-in-law," Gene White said.
"We got a little rain and suddenly, we heard it coming and it sounded like a freight train. The wind started whipping and tipped over stuff and then something hit the house."
For the Whites, who said the tree that crashed into their house was a giant when they moved in 35 years ago, there was a silver lining behind their ordeal.
About 20 friends, neighbors and strangers who drove by the damaged home Friday morning stopped and helped with the clean-up efforts.
"We didn't have to call anybody," said Donna White. "They just stopped and I had the coffee on for them."
The Whites hired Renko's Tree Service to remove the tree from their two-story house.
But across Seeley Creek in Webbs Mills, crews from the hamlet's volunteer fire department were handling the task for homeowners.
Jason Halm, chief of the fire department, was one of several in the area who saw a funnel cloud descend from the sky Thursday evening and touch the ground.
The path it took was easily defined by blown down and twisted trees.
"It cut a huge swath that followed Seeley Creek to the highway, jumped across the highway and followed Old Pennsylvania Avenue and up Bird Creek Road," Halm said.
After the storm blew through, Halm dispatched 42 volunteers from his department who, along with members from the New York State Police, Chemung County Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Environmental Conservation worked through the night clearing downed trees from the roadways.
At 8 a.m. Friday, Halm's firefighters went back out — this time to cut and removed trees that had fallen on houses, garages and yards.
"We have calls from 41 houses and we're trying to help NYSEG," Halm said.
"If we clear out the trees, they can get the wires back up. We'll probably be working through Sunday, but we're trying to help as much as we can."
This Article is from the Star Gazette
More to come soon about our departments involvement in the storm.