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July 26, 2009 - 1:40am

Recap: Tornado strikes Corfu, damages homes and businesses, but no injuries reported

posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, corfu.

Thankfully, says Corfu resident Mickey Zanghi, she and all her neighbors are safe.  When she looked out her window Saturday evening and saw a tornado bearing down on her neighborhood, she could hardly believe her eyes.

"All I said was, 'Oh my God, there is a 'ummm' tornado," Zanghi said (pictured, lower left), "and that was it. That's all you can think was to think of your family first and take cover."

zanghi_tornado.jpgThe storm struck Darien first, then tore through Corfu just a little before 5 p.m., and only minutes after the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch that speculated about the possibility of a tornado forming in Genesee County.

No injuries were reported as a result of the short, intense storm.

The storm first touched down in Corfu at a business residents there call the Greenhouse, which is near the Pizza Pantry.

Louie Reeb was standing with some fellow members of his work crew at the Pizza Pantry and commenting on how nice it looked outside and the rain had apparently abated, but then the winds hit.

"We noticed how bright it had gotten," Reeb said. "The rain had stopped and the sun had come out so we were standing at the window and all the sudden the wind started picking up and you could see the debris flying along with it, so we just all scattered to get away from the windows. It was kind of weird. It looked so beautiful and then a minute later it had hit the house up the street and all the debris was just flying through the air."

The Pizza Pantry was unscathed in the storm, but the nearby Greenhouse was leveled.

At the town bar on Main Street, patrons were enjoying each others' company and beers on the porch when the weather suddenly turned ugly.

"We heard this huge roar, everything was swirling around, winds were blowing like crazy for about 15, 20 seconds, it rained like crazy and that as it," said Terry Paine.

In just a few short minutes, according to area officials, a rare event for Western New York -- a tornado -- ripped through Darien and Corfu, uprooting trees, knocking down power lines and and damaging homes and businesses.

"We thought it was a loud train going by, so we thought maybe it was a crash with a train, and we looked out our window and there was the tornado smack dab in front of us," Zanghi said. "There was a lot of destruction."

About 20 to 25 homes in Corfu, and another dozen in Darien, were damaged, according to officials. Most of the damage was mild to moderate, mostly caused by flying debris. Two homes in Corfu suffered more serious damage, but no homes were destroyed.

A trampoline came to rest on the roof of her house, Zanghi said.

There were some outbuildings and barns that were destroyed, officials said.

"It's very concerning that you want to make sure that none of your fellow friends or your family are involved or hurt, but the major portion of that was taken care of quickly," said Corfu Fire Chief Brian McMartin, who watched the tornado as it left Corfu from his back yard. "We did a rapid response, we did some initial assessment and that went pretty well."

Judy Levan, of the National Weather Service, described the tornado as a category 1 event (the most severe tornado is a 5) with winds up to 100 m.p.h. and a four-mile-long path about 100 yards wide.

"Those are preliminary numbers and we will be doing a fly-over tomorrow morning and we'll be able to firm up exactly what the damage path was," said Levan.

The last tornado to hit Genesee County struck in 1993 and claimed the life of a truck driver, Levan said. Paine said he remembered another tornado passing through Corfu some 20 years ago.

Previously:

Video below is of the press conference later Saturday evening.  My camera is not working right, so I missed most of Tim Yaeger's opening remarks, but everything else came out OK.

UPDATE 10:54 a.m.:

We just received the links to the two tornado videos below shot by Cory Coles. They were shot with his cellphone.

Doug Yeomans
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It's puzzling when people say "thank God" after dodging disaster. The disaster still happened, after all. If God were to be involved at all, wouldn't the disaster have been prevented in the first place? When people die in a disaster are they still thankful to god or are they pissed off at God for killing them? I'm not trying to start anything but these contradictions have always puzzled me. When people die it's often heard "they're in a better place now". Well, if that's true, why are people so sad when someone they love, dies? *shrug* I'd just like to say "thank GOODNESS" that nobody was killed because I believe that being dead pretty much sucks. Thank you to all the rescue workers, firemen, police and neighbors who came to the assistance of those in need. That's who really needs to be thanked.
Howard B. Owens
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Doug, I think you're reading too much into it. It's also sometimes just an expression, just a natural way of expressing relief. I've also changed it to "thankfully" in the post so that my paraphrasing isn't taken too literally.
Doug Yeomans
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I really wasn't trying to be too critical and I know I was off topic in my opening sentence. Don't change anything. That's just how my mind works when I notice things like that. I can't resist commenting.
Doug Yeomans
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How bout' those tornadoes?!
My family and I were driving to Buffalo for a get together before this happened. We saw what would be the formation of the funnel cloud about 20 minutes before it happened! We drove right underneath it! My wife and I both had a bad feeling that it was going to turn into something more, but to see the damage it created in such a short period of time is amazing. I'm glad everyone is alright!

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