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What to Do When a Tornado Hits Your Block? Blog.

It was a dark and stormy morning.  Suddenly, a gust of wind came up!  A door banged shut!  The cat screeched!  Suddenly, a tornado appeared on the horizon!
Or not.
What I can tell you is that shortly before 10 AM, during a driving rainstorm that had been intermittent since 5, there was a massive gust of wind that swirled into and around the house, that produced some audible effects unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
It’s been a day of speculation on Connecticut Street about just what to call that Mighty Wind that blew in big, and just as quickly was gone.  More about that in a moment.
But whatever it was called, its effects were clear.
Portions of the cornices and roofs were torn away on two of the street’s most prominent buildings: Mineo & Sapio Italian Sausage Shop, and Ashland Pest Control.  The result was that bricks “hit the bricks” and chunks of roof and roofing were scattered in what the Buffalo News ominously termed a “debris field” for over two blocks.  Half of the metal cornice from Mineo & Sapio was carried onto the next block, and a guy outside the neighborhood bar (Golden Key Tavern) said that it barely missed hitting a car.  Large sections of roof ended up on the building that houses Burning Books, which, however, doesn’t appear to have suffered any damage.  Also, the nearby “Little Green Cottage,” on which I did some interior finish work when I first moved to Buffalo, was unaffected.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.
However, residents of three buildings have been temporarily displaced for their safety.  Damage estimates are in the six figures. There are reports that some “selective” demolition may be carried out, presumably for purposes of removing unstable masonry, etc., prior to renovation work.  Both of the major buildings damaged have been well looked after — Ashland Pest Control had a first-class repainting of their building carried out just last year.
Some of the neighbors told Channel 2 that they had seen an actual funnel cloud, which also lifted a car.
Image source (also entry image): Bernice Radle
Checking out the damage for myself, I came across the Buffalo City Engineer, Don Poleto, overseeing City crews clearing the street with heavy equipment.  I’ve seen Don in the midst of some challenging situations, including the emergency demolition of the bell tower of St. Mary’s on the Hill, and he always seems to be as cool as a cucumber.  Today was no exception.
He told me that he brought in an official from the National Weather Service office to survey the damage to check for signs of an actual tornado touchdown.  She went up on a lift, and determined that the damage was more consistent with a directed gust, like a microburst or a downdraft.  In other words, “straight-line” winds (terminology reported by WGRZ) as opposed to circular, as in a tornado.  Consistent with this, according to Poleto, was that the roof on one of the buildings was blown off on a diagonal line (photo below).  She also told Poleto that she didn’t notice any “tree-topping” in the vicinity, which would be consistent with a tornado touchdown.
Image source: WGRZ (Darryl Granger)
Poleto also told me that the strong winds appeared to have been in a band across Buffalo.  He said that the City had at least a dozen tree calls, but that none of them were from either north or south Buffalo.  In fact, they were mostly around Summer and Best streets, and in the Fruit Belt.
Buffalo isn’t the only place to get some crazy wind today.  Wind damage and potential tornados were reported all across Erie County this morning, including a couple dozen trees toppled in Cheektowaga Town Park.  Although various reports indicate that, after investigation, the National Weather Service was unable to confirm any tornado activity in Erie County (including on Connecticut Street), etremely rare tornado touchdowns occurred in New York City, and a three-state area was under tornado watch.
So how did your neighborhood fare in today’s storm?
Links to more news photos of the wind damage here and here.

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

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