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Storms hammer region again

July 3, 2014
Updated 11:06 p.m.
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A motorist is stranded due to severe flooding on Merlin Drive in Niskayuna. Niskayuna Fire Fighters respond.
A motorist is stranded due to severe flooding on Merlin Drive in Niskayuna. Niskayuna Fire Fighters respond.

— The rains came again Thursday, and this time they were joined by a possible tornado.

The winds swept through parts of western Montgomery County and the southern tip of Herkimer County, said Joe Villani, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

A tornado warning was in effect from 4:10 to 5:15 p.m. for southeastern Herkimer, Fulton, and northwestern Montgomery counties, while the entire region was under a severe thunderstorm watch until 10 p.m., and a flash flooding watch until midnight.

“We can’t officially say there was a tornado, but we can certainly say that there was damage there,” Villani said. “It certainly could be [a tornado].”

The towns of Minden and St. Johnsville experienced significant damage, said Jeffery Smith, Montgomery County emergency management director. On Fordsbush Road in Minden, a barn collapsed and a tractor trailer was blown over and onto the highway, he said. There were many locations with trees and wires down, but there were no injuries or fatalities reported.

Weather service meteorologists will survey the area today before determining if the winds were a tornado, and if they were, how severe, Villani said.

It would be the 40th tornado to hit the seven-county region since 1959 and the 40th with no fatalities, according to the Tornado History Project.

It would also be the second tornado in less than two months. On May 22, an EF3 tornado ripped through Duanesburg and leveled a woman’s house, tore a wall off Duanesburg Volunteer Ambulance Corps and overturned two 5-ton storage units containing equipment at a fireworks factory. The winds reached an estimated 140 mph.

Thursday’s rains, which were accompanied by thunder, lightning and even hail in some areas, threatened to put a damper on the first of three nights of Phish shows at Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center. The heaviest rains passed through the area in time for the show to go on, but doors opened at 6:45 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

Concert-goers taking Route 50 to get there were met with traffic light outages in Glenville and Ballston Spa.

Fire crews responded to a fire at a Gloversville home at 14 Temple St., although it’s not clear if it was caused by lightning. An official cause was being investigated. The home’s roof was heavily damaged.

There were also reports of power lines down across the region.

The rainfall wasn’t as heavy as Wednesday’s storm, which led to reports of flash floods and submerged vehicles, downed power lines across the region, as well as reports of collapsing ceilings and walls. Three men were struck by lightning in Rotterdam, and two people were rescued from a submerged minivan in Niskayuna.

The area’s rainfall Thursday was estimated at between a quarter-inch and half-inch, compared to about 2 inches in Niskayuna Wednesday and 3.77 inches in Guilderland, Villani said.

Villani said the storm was a slow-moving cold front set up by “very warm and humid” conditions. The storm was forecast to cross the region between 5 and 8 p.m., but the worst was over by about 6:30 p.m. Scattered showers were expected through the night and into the morning and afternoon.

The weather should clear up in time for late afternoon and evening Fourth of July festivities, Villani said.

“The weather will be better tomorrow, but it’s going to be a slow improvement tonight,” he said Thursday.

 
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