By Hannah Johnston
Two tornadoes touched down in Western NY on Thursday, causing severe damage in Hamburg, Orchard Park, and other surrounding areas. According to WKBW-TV, thousands of customers lost power. Downed trees and power lines led to road closures in the Southtowns.
The Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg suffered extensive damage, including uprooted trees, smashed ticket booths, and damage to the roof of the grandstand.
Elsewhere, people witnessed sites more associated with Tornado Alley states like Kansas or Oklahoma. Kevin Karas, of Hamburg, posted videos from his home security system on Facebook which went viral. In one, you could see the wind pick up and move a Subaru and a nearby flatbed trailer. In another, you could see a funnel cloud from out a back window and hear someone in the video shout, “We gotta go!”
“It looked like a white fog, mist,” said Karas in a telephone interview on Friday. He was on the porch with his daughter and young cousin when the storm began. Two minutes later, about ten houses down, they saw garbage cans being lifted between fifteen and twenty feet in the air before being slammed back down onto the pavement. Soon after, the mulch in Karas’ garden started to swirl in the air.
Quickly, Karas and his family retreated into the house, but not before they saw the funnel of the tornado about five houses down.The funnel cracked a basketball net that was cemented in the ground completely in half.
“It was large,” Karas said. “I’m going by the video because that was a better picture. Maybe four feet in diameter, and then went down to two feet and dissipated. It touched ground for maybe one hundred and fifty two feet.”
Upon seeing this, Karus took his daughter and cousin to the basement. He wasn’t able to see his car being picked up, but he does recall feeling his whole house rattle for a few seconds. “It was like a thunder storm,” Karas said.
After the tornado passed over, Karas was shocked to find his car and trailer damaged and moved–but his neighborhood was in complete disarray as well. His trampoline had been thrown over a six-foot fence and into his neighbor’s yard. A garbage can that was located near his now-severely-damaged car flew from his driveway over his house, over his next door neighbor’s house, and then hit the next house.
Karas says his biggest concern was his kids. “It’s not about me anymore, it’s about the kids so we just got them down in the basement, just took the proper precautions I guess,” Karas said.
Despite the fact that he was in the midst of the storm, Karas said he didn’t get any alert about it on his cell phone, as many people did as the storm approached. “That was a thing that concerned me a little bit,” he said.