Tornado shakes up town of Florida residents

FLORIDA – Barbara Neznek was sitting at her Route 30 home just before 7 p.m. Wednesday when she heard a terrifying sound.

“It [sounded] just like a freight train,” Neznek said today.

The sound was coming from a tornado with 125 mph winds blowing through her family’s farm operation.

When it was over, Neznek said, the funnel cloud that touched down had obliterated a hay barn, blew a chicken coop 200 yards down the road and ripped the roof off a farm house.

“The barn is rubble,” she said.

At one point, she said, the intense low pressure from the storm made it impossible for anyone to open doors on any of the structures as the tornado came whistling through.

“Then it passed,” she said.

Neznek said one chicken has a sore leg from the experience, but otherwise, seven other chickens remained unscathed. She said the several members of the Neznek families who run the farming operation were unhurt, but some still are shaken by what happened.

The operation is run by several siblings and encompasses Route 30, Merry Road and Bernaski Road.

“The biggest damage was in the barn,” Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said today of the tornado that hit the Neznek operation. “There was some [other] minor sporadic damage.”

Schwabrow said a Neznek house north of the barn also had its roof blown off.

Meteorologist John Quinlan of the National Weather Service in Albany said today the tornado that hit Montgomery County during Wednesday night’s thunderstorms was rare but not unprecedented.

He said the storm, which also involved another tornado that touched down in Schoharie County, was nearly halfway to filling the 2013 tornado quota for this region.

“We average typically in our region, which is 15 counties in New York state and four counties in Western New England, about 2.4 tornadoes per year,” Quinlan said.

The tornado that hit Montgomery County traveled about 17 miles through the Mohawk Valley, ending in Schenectady County.

According to National Weather Service data, the tornado began about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday and continued into Rotterdam. It had an EF scale rating of EF-2, with estimated wind speed of 125 mph and a path 1 mile wide. The National Weather Service said there was no fatalities, but one unspecified injury.

The weather service provided this narrative about the tornado: “Path width was consistent along the entire path length, maximum damage included roofs torn off multiple structures and high-tension power line towers toppled, large number of hard and soft wood trees were either toppled, uprooted and-or sheared, widespread power outages occurred as well.”

The storm caused damage and power outages in Schenectady and Albany counties.

Power was out briefly for about 400 National Grid customers in the town of Florida overnight Wednesday.

Barbara Neznek said her brother-in-law’s roof was blown off on Bernaski Road. She said she’s glad everyone is OK, including her husband, Terry, who was in a garage working on stakes for a garden at the time of the tornado.

Her 81-year-old mother-in-law, Grace Neznek, remains shaken, she said.

Town Supervisor William Strevy couldn’t be reached this morning for comment.

Weather service investigators also confirmed a smaller tornado hit the Schoharie County communities of Summit and East Jefferson a short time later, damaging trees along a path 2 miles long and 200 yards wide with 100 mph winds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.