By Ashley M. Casey
A severe storm Tuesday evening caused power outages and damages throughout Oswego County, including the destruction of the projection screen at the Midway Drive-In Theatre in Minetto.
National Grid estimated nearly 10,000 people lost power in Oswego County Tuesday night. As of Wednesday morning, almost 7,000 people were still waiting for their electricity to come back on. Volney customers were hit the hardest with 1,568 still without power Wednesday.
Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen said the east side of the city of Oswego saw a lot of trees down and some structural damage.
“The good news is no one was hurt,” Gillen said. “We lost a lot of trees, and homes took a beating.”
Two families in the Brittany Hills housing development were displaced after the storm’s heavy winds tore off parts of the walls of their homes and garages.
“Fire, police and DPW have been working around the clock … trying to get back to what’s normal,” Gillen said.
Terry Bennett of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office said overall the county has not “suffered as much as our colleagues in other counties.”
Onondaga County saw extensive storm damage, as a state of emergency was called in East Syracuse.
In Madison County, four people in the town of Smithfield were killed when their homes collapsed.
The National Weather Service confirmed Wednesday that the storm in Madison County was a tornado.
“Most of the municipalities say they had trees down and wires down. They’re in pretty good shape today,” Bennett said.
According to the Oswego City Police Department, emergency workers worked into the night Tuesday to clear fallen tree limbs and power lines. Gillen said National Grid was “doing everything they can” to restore power in Oswego.
“It’s nature, it happens, and we’re lucky we got through it with as little damage as possible,” Gillen said.
David Thomas, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Buffalo, said winds in Oswego County reached 60 to 70 miles per hour.
These straight line winds traveled in one direction to cause much of the damage in the city of Oswego, Minetto and Granby.
Thomas said tornado winds travel in a spiral or rotating pattern. Most of the damage in Oswego County was caused by straight line winds.
“We typically do see once or twice a year a thunderstorm with large (amounts) of damage,” Thomas said. “This was much broader and covered a good part of New York state.”
Thomas said many healthy trees were uprooted or snapped by the gusts of wind.
William Gregway, a weather observer in Oswego, said the storm seemed to come out of the Lock 6 area of the Oswego River. He said it measured hundreds of yards wide and “a good mile-and-a-half long.”
“We received half an inch — .56 inches — of rain in 15 minutes. That was between 6 and 6:15 p.m.,” Gregway said. (See box for more rain data.)
“It definitely was an unusual storm,” he added. “We haven’t seen a storm like that in quite some time in this area.”
Scott Steiger, associate professor of meteorology at SUNY Oswego, said the conditions for Tuesday’s storm were what storm chasers call “dinnertime magic.”
He said during the early evening, the air near the ground is at its most humid and hot, while cold air is up to four miles above the ground. The dewpoint was in the upper 60s Tuesday and winds were powerful.
“It doesn’t happen too often. It’s serendipitous that all these ingredients came together (for a storm),” Steiger said.
Steiger said he had not studied whether this storm — and a localized wind storm that occurred three miles west of SUNY Oswego June 24 — could be a result of climate change.
“New York state gets severe weather every year. It’s just kind of random who gets hit,” he said. “There’s a lot of other factors besides climate change.”
Steiger said the advent of social media and the Internet has increased reporting on storms, so what looks like a pattern of increasingly severe weather may just be the result of more people talking about it.
John Nagelschmidt, owner of the Midway Drive-In, could not be reached for comment.
Area lifestyle and news website I Heart Oswego said in a Facebook post that I Heart Oswego is forming a committee to assist the rebuilding effort for the Drive-In.
A few fundraising requests popped up on sites such as GoFundMe, but none were sanctioned by Nagelschmidt, and they have been taken down.
How much rain fell?
- Fulton — 0.69 inches
- Lacona — 0.61 inches
- Minetto — 0.51 inches
- Oswego — 0.61 inches
- Pulaski — 0.30 inches
Source: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network