Turns out that a sick day, with three kids in quarantine after a diagnosis of strep throat, was a blessing in disguise. A major storm hit Beacon (and the Hudson Highlands, NYC, CT, PA, and NJ) at around 4 pm on Tuesday, May 15. Weather watchers were expecting rain, but when warnings of hail and high winds came across the TV, severe-weather veterans took to their yards to bring in potted plants and lower the basketball hoops. My neighbor is such a veteran weather watcher that he warned me of imminent hail before I embarked on a family walk to Key Food to fill up the fridge after my little ones ate through everything. An hour after returning, my phone vibrated its insistent SOS call, which we usually only hear for Amber Alerts. Only this time, it said "Tornado in your area. Take shelter."
I gathered my brood, and we went straight to the basement. Thank goodness that for Mother's Day I treated myself to a bunch of new flashlights and lanterns. After a brief power outage from our winter blizzards, I realized I had no working flashlights anymore. Normally at this time of day, my husband would be working in New York City, but on Tuesday, he was headed home early (he'd been recovering from his own bout with strep) and was on 9D when the rains, macrobursts and tornadoes hit. The winds flattened trees around him and literally ripped through other trees.
At least three fatalities were blamed on the winds, which brought trees down, right onto people in cars (see details in this Highlands Current article). Three tornadoes went through Connecticut, and at least four hit New York (including one in Newburgh) bringing winds between 75 and 100 mph, spanning paths of several miles (see a photo here from Central Hudson). Some of the worst damage was caused by macrobursts that ripped through Dutchess County and other counties. Macrobursts possess wind speeds of 100 mph or more, and travel in straight lines for miles, unlike tornadoes, which have rotating, swirling, damaging winds. Central Hudson also confirmed that 1,000 lightning strikes happened per hour: “Storm with winds up to 78 MPH + 1,000 lightning strikes per hour has interrupted service to more than 72,000 customers.” Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro declared a State of Emergency, and Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a State of Emergency and deployed 125 National Guard members to help with the storm's effects.
On Wednesday, Central Hudson stated that many workers were on duty to clear trees (from street scenes like these) and restore power: “Approximately 185 line workers together with nearly 180 tree personnel are clearing roads and restoring power in our service territory today. Additionally, more than 270 mutual aid line workers are anticipated to arrive throughout the day.” See Central Hudson's trucks here restoring power.
By Thursday, that number grew: “A field force more than 1,000 strong is at work today clearing roads, responding to emergencies and restoring electric service.” They noted: “Mutual aid crews from as far as Niagara Falls, Michigan and Vermont have arrived.”
In Wallkill, my assistant was working on a project with me via email, and the next minute she was MIA, as the wind had ripped open a tree in her yard, and it tore apart a newly completed shed at her neighbor's house.
Castle Point, which is located along the Hudson River just north of Beacon, is the home of many families as well as the VA Hudson Valley Health Care system. Macrobursts ripped through the area. My friend's wife works at the VA hospital, and he was waiting for her to come home, as it's a 10-minute drive. She did not get home for several hours, after being stuck in Castle Point as it dealt with trees and debris that had been tossed around by wind.
Beacon school teacher Brian Antalek, who lives in Castle Point, was quoted in the Poughkeepsie Journal as having to park his car at neighboring Stony Kill Foundation and walk two miles to his home in Castle Point. One man who I encountered at the grocery store told me about the huge oak tree in his yard that blew into the next yard. Shingles and pieces of housing landed in his yard, and he could only surmise that they were from Newburgh, as they didn't match anything nearby.
Newburgh received extensive damage, and is still recovering and still has areas without power. According to Eastern Dutchess Fire and Rescue: "Electrical substations which supplied power to the City of Newburgh sustained heavy damage requiring extensive repair. It is very possible that vast areas of the City may experience many days without electricity." Residents are boiling their water and those with gym memberships were using the facilities to shower. I got a call from a sales person living in Newburgh on Friday trying to set up a meeting, which she couldn't quite commit to, saying "I can't see anyone like this, I have to wait until the power comes back on."
Stony Kill Farm and Common Ground Farm in Fishkill suffered many trees down. A fire erupted on 9D near the farm (in the picture below with red bathroom barn). A transformer had exploded and caught fire on 9D. Stacey from Stony Kill Foundation reports that all of the farm's animals were unharmed and OK.
We had been to Stony Kill and Common Ground a week prior, on school field trips to see Common Ground Farm's pride and glory, the thriving tomatoes under the tarp greenhouses they built - which were destroyed by the winds.
In Dutchess Junction, a tree fell on a power line. That caused an electrical fire for about 45 minutes until Central Hudson came and turned off the power, according to Maria Garcia Mojica, who submitted the picture below.
The interior designer Ryan Samuelson experienced severe damage to his home on Washington Avenue in Beacon while he was in the basement. "I was just coincidentally down in the basement grabbing something. I didn’t even know about the storm warnings. Then I felt and heard a loud crunch and knew something pretty serious just happened."
In Fishkill, Route 52 was brought to a standstill, contributing to the traffic blockade that delayed people for hours trying to get into or out of Beacon. The CVS pictured below is the one on Route 52 near Love Nails. These photos were submitted by Kathy Harrison.
Many construction projects are in progress here in Beacon. The most recent are those on 9D which cleared parcels of trees to prepare for the construction of new apartment buildings. One of two trees left on one property blew over (doesn't seem to be dead yet, however). Fencing blocking the other construction project blew away. A reproduction of the children's book, The Lorax, which is about preserving trees, had been posted on the fence in a statement about the removal of the trees. That portion of the fence remained through the wind blast. The fencing destroyed in the storm has since been replaced.
In Beacon, many trees came down. This yellow house on Verplanck is a known abandoned house, which is rumored to be lost in bank foreclosure paperwork. Just who will haul away this tree may not be straightforward.
A tree blown down on Willow Street by the storm blocked this alternate backroads artery for two days after the storm. With 9D already limited by planned construction to finish NYSDOT ADA curb-cut ramps between Main Street and I-84, side streets like Willow, Orchard Place, Dutchess Terrace and others become back-road alternates. This made getting into or out of Beacon even more difficult. This tree below was cleared swiftly on Friday.
The macrobursts took out bits and pieces of structures in their path, making some of the destruction seem random. A brick wall and bush were taken out at this house on Rombout Avenue.
The small Fanny Fay Girl Scout House, at the end of Rombout Avenue, is surrounded by trees. We headed over to check out if any had fallen. This one did, but fell away from the house, further into the woods.
Please note that most businesses in Beacon are now open! Several opened soon after the storm. Some parts of Main Street were without power, while others retained it. Main Street Beacon is back in business.
Statistics on a Few Tornadoes in New York
While the macrobursts, with winds of 100 mph and higher, caused major widespread damage, here are some statistics on the recorded tornadoes.
Estimated Peak Winds: 90 mph
Path Length: 5 miles
Path Width: 528 feet (0.1 mile)
Start Time: 2:29 pm
Location: The tornado path started along Route 212 between Woodstock and Saugerties and moved east through the western and southern part of Saugerties before crossing the Hudson River and ending in Tivoli, NY, just south of Clermont State Historic Site.
Estimated Peak Winds: 75 mph
Path Length: 0.62 miles
Path Width: 50 yards
Start Time: 4:16 pm
Location: Originated near Albany Post Road, south of Bennett Road. The tornado lifted near the Hudson River behind Susan Drive.
Putnam County, NY Tornadoes
Estimated Peak Winds: 115 mph
Path Length: 100 yards
Path Width: 1.14 miles
Start Time: 4:29 pm
Location: Originated near apartments on Route 52, continuing along Route 52 before lifting near Town Road
Estimated Peak Winds: 100 mph
Path Length: 75 yards
Path Width: 2.89 miles
Start Time: 4:32 pm
Location: Originated along Route 22 north of Haviland Hollow Road, lifting near the intersection of East Branch Road and Fairfield Drive.
What was your story during the storm? Please share it in the comments below.