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Top Story, Aug. 1, 2016


Smith recounts day destructive tornado struck farm

 

By JANE PRIMERANO
AFP Correspondent

BELVIDERE —
The storm was Thursday, July 14, but it didn’t officially become a tornado until July 21.
Tom Smith was mowing hay when suddenly his dogs, Buster and Lily, tried to climb on the tractor.
Since they are trained to stay away from the equipment, he knew something was wrong. He turned and saw a black storm cloud about a mile away heading toward him.
He drove the tractor toward the barn. The wind picked up the hay bine and he hit his head on the dashboard.
He jumped off to run toward the stream. Thinking better of it, he ran toward his house, jerking the handle off his screen door.
He pulled the couch upside down over himself and the dogs.
Friends of his saw the storm from Route 519 by the Warren County Correctional Center and realized it was hitting Smith’s farm.
They pulled into his farm lane which was partially blocked by downed wires.
Lily the sheepdog ran out from under the couch and through the broken door. Buster, the Saint Bernard was still with Smith.
The entire barn roof was gone, trees were in the steam, pieces of the fence were down and the cows were missing. They were later found hiding among some downed trees.
“The horses weren’t fazed,” Smith said.
Further inspection revealed a two by four sticking out of the new siding of the house, power tools missing from a shed although two two-person crosscut saws were not disturbed. A new set of outdoor furniture is missing.
“My gas grill was behind the bowling alley,” Smith said. “I just got it. I hadn’t even used it.”
“Thank God my house is still here,” he said.
One corner support of the shed canopy is missing.
“We haven’t even found a brick,” Smith said.
Of the 120 bales of hay he put up, 31 were left. Three of the bales were found three miles away, he said.
Smith was amazed at how random the damage was. The small windmill next to the farm lane was untouched. A 50-year-old refrigerator in a shed was also undamaged. But an antique kitchen cabinet was ruined.
He had no power for two days.
“Saturday (July 16) I saw seven trucks and 10 men from the power company drive in,” he said. He got water by Sunday, July 17.
The horses are now not too happy because they only have a run-in shed instead of their nice stalls in the barn.
Smith said once the storm was ruled a tornado he can now get 100 percent reimbursement from his insurance. He said he had to bring the representative from the National Weather Service up the mountain to look at the damage from above before he would agree it was a tornado.
“The corn behind the barn was spiraled,” Smith said.
The barn is part of property owned by Pennsylvania Power and Light on which the Smith family has life rights.
Tom Smith’s brother, Dennis, said the power plant at Martin’s Creek, Pa., owns land for a mile in each direction, having purchased the property in the 1940s.
“They’re going to level it,” Dennis Smith said. “We’ll know this week if the whole thing will come down.”
Tom Smith said the two silos adjacent to the barn are damaged, but the big silo is not. Ironically, a barn in Asbury destroyed by heavy winds on Monday, July 18, also belonged to a farm family named Smith.
“They were friends of my mother,” Tom Smith said. “Both women named Betty Smith.”