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Tornado ravages Amsterdam

Town cleaning up after twister

September 6, 2011
By JOHN R. BECKER , The Leader Herald

AMSTERDAM - It didn't matter how thick or how old the trees were on Robb Road in the town of Amsterdam; Sunday's tornado uprooted some of them and snapped others as if they were toothpicks.

"These trees have been here for 40 years," Donna Rostowski said, looking at the damage at her daughter's home Monday. "It's complete devastation."

Rostowski's daughter, Jennie, called her at 5:29 p.m. Sunday.

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"She was shaking when she called," Rostowski said. "To get that call is just devastating."

One tree had to be pulled off the house with the help of tractors, but the house was not badly damaged, she said.

"The tornado chose its path," Rostowski said. "By the grace of God, nobody got hurt."

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fallen trees are around homes on Cranes Hollow Road in Cranesville on Monday as a result of Sunday’s tornado.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

The tornado, packing 110 mph winds, made its way through Montgomery County around 5:30 p.m. The half-mile-wide path caused damage for seven miles from Cranesville through the town of Amsterdam and into Schenectady County. The tornado damaged dozens of houses, pulled down trees and power lines and knocked out power to dozens. A town of Amsterdam official estimated damage at up to a million dollars.

Robb Road is about 1.5 miles long. It is a straight road that runs east and west, connecting Swart Hill and Baldwin Road. Both ends of Robb Road appeared nearly untouched by the tornado, but some homes closer to the middle of the road were damaged.

Baldwin Road connects with Crane's Hollow Road, where some of the heaviest damage occurred.

Jim and Sue McClymonds live on Robb Road. A 100-year-old hay barn on their property was destroyed and probably cannot be replaced. One tree hit the house, and workers with chain saws were removing it Monday afternoon.

"What we lost most was these 100-year-old trees, including one that hit the house," Jim McClymonds said. "We overdesigned the house, so we should be structurally all right."

McClymonds is chief administrative law judge with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He was in Delaware County checking on flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene in Margaretville and Arkville when he heard the news.

"I came home to my own devastation," he said.

Mike and Evelyn Sheridan live on nearby McQuade Road; they came to check on Mike's elderly father, who is all right.

"I lived in Iowa for four years, and I've seen the devastation of tornadoes, but nothing like this," Mike Sheridan said.

Phil Krutz chained one tree to another to keep it from falling over.

"The wind shook the trees," he said. "If we took that chain off, [the tree] would be in the road."

Krutz said the storm's path was strange.

"It kind of went east to west, but it made a couple of turns," he said. "Something totally wicked came through here."

The National Weather Service confirmed the EF 1 tornado, meaning its maximum wind speed was 110 mph. The tornado's path was a half- mile wide and seven miles long.

"It was a rare and isolated event," Vasil Kolecki, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office at the Albany International Airport, said this morning. "Usually, some areas will get a microburst, and the path of the storm can be up to two and a half miles long."

Dwight Schwabrow, Montgomery County director of emergency management, said it was a blessing that no one was hurt in the tornado.

"We were quite concerned about injuries, with the amount of devastation," he said.

Schwabrow said the path of the storm was narrow.

"I went to the Cranesville firehouse, and there was damage on one side of the firehouse, but not on the other," he said.

Schwabrow had high praise for National Grid; most electric power customers were back online as of Monday night.

"I was led to believe the restoration of power was going to take a lot longer than it did," Schwabrow said. "I was amazed the power was on as soon as it was; crews worked in nasty conditions."

Amsterdam Town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza agreed.

"National Grid was right there on the spot," he said. "There were 39 crews. Route 5 looked like a convoy of National Grid vehicles."

DiMezza estimates 30 to 40 houses in the town of Amsterdam were damaged.

"Roofs were taken off and trees came through windows," he said.

DiMezza estimates the damage from the tornado at $500,000 to $1 million.

"If you exclude the infrastructure of National Grid and other utilities, the damage is around a half-million dollars," he said this morning. "If you include the infrastructure, it's over $1 million."

Town and county crews have been working around the clock in the town of Amsterdam and are still there, DiMezza said.

John R. Becker covers Montgomery County news. He can be reached at



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