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Storms spawn tornadoes across four Northeast states

July 4, 1997

COPAKE, N.Y. (AP) _ A massive rotating thunderstorm churned out tornadoes in upstate New York and three New England states, flipping mobile homes, uprooting trees and terrifying people who got caught outdoors.

Frank Westervelt was in his garage Thursday in Selkirk sharpening the blades on his lawn mower when the beating rain stopped and gave way to a frightening roar.

``The wind started blowing, and the whole roof came off,″ Westervelt told the Times Union of Albany. ``The rafters and everything blew right off.″

He grabbed onto the garage door as his tractor flipped on its nose and felt himself being lifted off his feet. Then, almost as soon as it struck, it stopped.

``I didn’t have time to think,″ he said. ``I’ve never been so scared in all my life.″

The storm, called a super cell by meteorologists, also blew through western Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont and southern New Hampshire. Residents said they spotted tornadoes in dozens of communities.

Two airplanes flipped over at South Albany Airport in Bethlehem. A steeple was sheared off a Baptist church in Florida, Mass. Trees were uprooted in Cheshire, N.H., and thousands were left without power across the regions.

In western Massachusetts, lightning struck two Big Apple Circus workers at the Great Barrington Fairgrounds, which had been torn up two years ago by a twister that killed three people and flattened 1,500 acres of forest.

The workers were not seriously injured.

Collapsed buildings and fallen trees and power lines were reported throughout the region. Lightning set a barn on fire in Spencer, Mass.

In New Hampshire, a tornado hit the southern town of Keene, destroying a building at the fairgrounds, ripping up trees and leaving hundreds in the dark. No injuries were reported.

In Vermont, hundreds of trees were snapped near Westminster, and hail the size of golf balls pelted Hillsdale.

Upstate New York saw much of the same.

The winds tore Pauline Tooley’s mobile home from its foundation in Summit, south of Albany, and tossed it 50 feet onto her son’s mobile home. Her son, his wife and young children escaped with minor injuries.

``They say the world is coming to an end. I guess it comes to an end at my house,″ Tooley said.

A reported tornado destroyed two small planes, including a vintage 1940s Luscombe, tethered outside a hangar at the suburban Albany airport. Terrence Kindlon saw the twister touch down as he was driving home from work.

``I was passing by the airport, and I looked up. I saw this black, boiling cloud up there, and suddenly it turned into a funnel cloud, and it just descended,″ Kindlon said. ``I was incredulous.″

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