Twister cuts a path of despair (with video, photo gallery)
Cranesville at heart of devastation
AMSTERDAM The National Weather Service confirmed Monday that a tornado touched down in Montgomery and Schenectady counties between 5:20 and 6 p.m. Sunday, bringing down trees and power lines, scattering debris and peeling off the roof of a restaurant.
The path of the tornado, categorized an EF1 with winds up to 110 miles per hour, started two miles southwest of the hamlet of Cranesville in the town of Amsterdam and extended seven miles into a portion of West Glenville. Its path was about a half-mile wide, with the worst damage reported in Cranesville, according to investigators with the National Weather Service in Albany. There were no reported injuries.
Between 25 and 30 homes and outbuildings were damaged in Cranesville and the area was left without power.
On Cranes Hollow Road, portions of a large tree in the Temple of Israel Cemetery fell onto the jeep of 80-year-old Dan Kowalczyk, which he had parked next to his garage. As caretaker of the cemetery, he lives next door.
“I was in Cobleskill at the time, and I’m glad I was,” he said. “I didn’t want to see it.”
The twister also damaged Kowalczyk’s garage and the roof of his house, and several trees also had to be cut down and removed.
Next door, Joe Brooks said he was outside on his porch Sunday night with his family when the skies grew dark and the winds began to pick up. He told his wife and daughter to get inside the house while he stayed outside to watch, but soon followed as he realized how dangerous it was, with debris whipping around his neighborhood.
“I’ll need a whole new roof,” he said. “There are patches in the back where all the shingles lifted up and there are bare spots. Thankfully nothing has started to leak yet, but we’ll see.”
Meanwhile his 16-year-old son, Russell, was working his shift as a dishwasher at Valentino’s Restaurant on Riverview Drive as the twister passed through.
He said he was in the kitchen when the sky grew dark noticeably fast and the sound of the wind could be heard through the walls. After a pot fell off a rack and hit him in the leg he went out to the dining room to see if other employees knew what was happening.
“Then we heard this huge ripping noise as the roof started to peel away right while we were standing under it,” said Russell. “It was scary.”
Another large, old oak tree next to the building fell on a different portion of the roof, causing more damage. The road was blocked by fallen trees and debris for some time before the area was cleared and the employees were evacuated.
The Valentino family that owns the restaurant could not be reached Tuesday and the extent of the damage is still unknown.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s mobile kitchen set up at Trinity Baptist Church in Niskayuna diverted some of its attention away from the flood victims of Tropical Storm Irene on Monday to send food to those without power because of the tornado. Workers were in Cranesville with the American Red Cross around dinnertime, passing out hot meals and asking if any other items were needed.
As the town of Amsterdam Highway Department cleared trees and limbs from roadways, the state Department of Transportation and the Montgomery County Department of Public Works also responded after the storm. State police and members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office blocked the Cranesville area off soon after the storm and helped search homes for injured residents.
The National Guard was at the scene Monday, keeping people away from the impacted area so utility and highway crews could work without interruption.
In Glenville, the twister pulled down trees and power lines, and there was a report of a house damaged when a tree fell on it, according to the Glenville Police Department.
Some roads in the area were closed immediately after the storm but were reopened by Monday morning, police said.
“Damage was pretty extensive,” said Dwight Schwabrow, Montgomery County’s emergency management director.
The Cranesville Fire Department on Riverside Drive was damaged by the fast-moving storm. Its radio tower was blown down and shingles were blown off the roof of the firehouse, which also sustained minor structural damage.
Damage from the storm was also reported on the south side of the Mohawk River near Route 5S, including the Cushing Stone quarry, said state police Sgt. Andrew Fowler.
Fowler said both Route 5 near Cranesville and Route 5S across the river were open to traffic by Monday afternoon. Cranes Hollow Road off Route 5 was still closed, though, so National Grid crews could work on downed power lines, he said.
By Monday evening, 269 National Grid customers were still without power in the town of Florida, 239 without service in the town of Amsterdam and 103 without electricity in the town of Glenville. Power was expected to be returned to those customers by late Monday night. More than 2,000 customers in the general area had been without power early Monday.
The National Weather Service sent two people into the field Monday to investigate the storm damage and confirmed a tornado had passed through
“Damage was extensive along the entire path [of the tornado],” said a statement from the National Weather Service. “Damage included numerous trees snapped off and uprooted, broken windows in homes, shingles ripped off roof tops. Some houses had parts of their roofs torn off and numerous sheds and outbuildings were destroyed.”
National Grid had 39 crews working in Montgomery, Schenectady and Fulton counties, in an area that included Cranesville, as well as other locations, such as the city of Amsterdam, said Schwabrow.