Friday's microburst leaves trail of destruction in Irvona|
Monday, June 04, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
IRVONA - Friday night turned out to be a nightmare for two Chest Township families after their homes were destroyed by what many thought was a tornado.
According to Mike Deangelo, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in State College, the storm was actually a microburst with sustained winds of 90-95 miles per hour.
Interviewed this morning, Deangelo said the storm was traveling northwest to southeast.
The storm left two families homeless in its aftermath.
Tom Bassinger had just taken his grandson to Coalport to spend the night with other relatives. When he returned, someone had stopped him at the end of Shortcut Road.
"A woman asked me if I knew who owned a house and garage just over the hill," Bassinger said. "I told her I did. ‘Why?' And she told me they were gone."
He said he never drove that road so fast in his life. When he arrived, he saw all of the destruction.
"I just finished that addition," he said.
The addition was a 20 x 40-foot addition he put on his mobile home. It was now gone, parts of it strewn across a field and across the road.
The other home, owned and occupied by sisters Dana and Peggy McGarvey, was also a loss, as the storm turned it completely upside down.
Neither McGarvey nor Dana's two children were at home when the storm hit.
"I came home to find the mess," Peggy McGarvey said. "I didn't know about it ‘til I got home. I was really surprised and shocked. But I have the good Lord to thank for us being safe and for this test he is giving me."
Her sister was in Altoona with her children, Stacey and Emily, when the storm hit. Dana McGarvey said Peggy sent her a text message and told her what was going on and she rushed home.
Irvona Fire Chief Terry Collins Sr. said the fire company received four calls about the same time and he said they were taking them in the order of priority. But, when he got the call for a report of a roof being blown off a home, he responded there first.
"I called for an ambulance immediately," the chief said. "Then when I got there and saw the damage, I called for the truck."
The engine was already on a call and he needed something on scene in case he had to gain access to one of the homes.
A 100-year-old barn was also destroyed, as was a garage that was being used as a barn to house horses. Collins said three horses were trapped inside the garage, but were not hurt. He said Leo Frailey, a Jordan Township supervisor, responded to the scene with a horse trailer and manpower and assisted in the rescue of the horses. Frailey took the horses to his farm and is housing them for Bassinger.
Collins said 250 gallons of home heating fuel was leaking after a fuel tank ruptured from the storm, and he called for Glendale Fire Dept. to help keep that be contained. Bert Brink, a Chest Township Supervisor, responded with a backhoe and dug two ditches to help stop the fuel from reaching a nearby stream.
Collins said Eagle Towing and Recovery was called to the scene to help clean up that mess.
While Bassinger was able to recover some things from his home, the McGarveys lost everything. The American Red Cross, Centre Communities Chapter, is assisting them.
Dana McGarvey provided sizes for the family and they include: Stacey, size 7-8 pants, shirts size 10-12 and shoes size 2; Emily, size 7-8 pants, size 8-12 shirts and child's size shoe 12-13. Dana and Peggy need size 3-4X shirts, pants size 22-26 and shoes size 9-10 for Dana and size 10-11 for Peggy.
The Red Cross has put Dana and her children up at the Philipsburg Harbor Inn while Peggy is staying with her dad in Westover. Donations can be dropped off at the Joe McGarvey home in Westover.
Collins said he utilized a lot of resources Friday night, from search and rescue, to hazardous materials, to animal and crowd control to live wires down and a structural collapse, but one resource he was glad he didn't need was the coroner.
"No one could have lived through that," Collins said, of the home being turned upside down. "I'm just so thankful no one was home when it hit."
About 40 emergency responders worked the situations throughout the events, including Irvona Fire Co., Glendale Fire Dept., Irvona Ambulance, Clearfield County Emergency Management Agency, Chest Township EMA, Eagle Towing and Recovery, Chest Township Supervisors, Leo Frailey, Westover Fire Co. and Glen Hope Fire Co.
There were no injuries and Collins can't even come close to a damage estimate. There was no insurance on the homes.
Collins said everything went well, considering the situation. He said the following day, the outpouring of help from the residents of that area was wonderful. He said the community was coming together to help those in need.
Firefighters were on scene for more than six hours.