A powerful storm pummeling Saugerties on Tuesday, May 15 elicited a tornado warning from the National Weather Service, produced hail the size of apricots, flooded Partition Street, caused a house fire on Abbotts Court and gave Saugerties’ Highway Department workers and emergency personnel plenty to do. According to Town Supervisor Fred Costello, no injuries were reported.
“The damage was concentrated primarily in the southern part of our service territory and a significant pocket of damage in the village and town of Saugerties,” said John Maserjian, Central Hudson spokesman. “It seemed that there was a weather anomaly that occurred over the Saugerties area that did not manifest itself in any other locations nearby. We did not see the level of damage in other parts of Ulster County.”
Earlier this evening, the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado with winds up to 90 mph struck the town. According to the NWS, “The tornado path started along Route 212 between Woodstock and Saugerties and moved east through the western and southern part of Saugerties before crossing the Hudson River and ending in Tivoli just south of the Clermont State Historic Site.”
In total, 3,600 town residents and 1,100 in the village lost power during the storm. According to Maserjian, 83 homes in the town and 55 in the village are still without power as of Wednesday afternoon, May 16. Maserjian said he expected their power to have been restored by Wednesday evening.
Approximately 1,000 lightning strikes per hour were recorded in the region during the height of the storm; top winds speeds were clocked at 78 mph in southern Dutchess County. As of Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service reported two tornado touchdowns in Putnam County.
Locally, the storm resulted in widespread damage: Cantine Field and Seamon Park saw some significant tree carnage and the complex has yet to regain electricity. In addition to the Abbotts Court house fire, which was caused by a downed power line, an electrical transformer caught fire in the Centerville Fire District. Even Village Mayor Bill Murphy’s Sawyerkill Terrace home was struck by a tree.
“It’s laying on [my house] now,” said Murphy. “It’s my big maple tree, the only shade tree left in my yard. It’s leaning over the backside of the house. I called my kids and told them to get the cats in and get in the basement — I’ve never seen a storm like that in my life. It was only a minute or two of pure horror, though, other than that it was just a heavy rain storm. It’s a flash flood, nature, nothing you can do about it. Luckily we have proper drainage in the village and the streets drained really quickly.”
Elm Street, Market Street, and the lower part of Main Street and Ulster Avenue were closed until yesterday evening; Village Department of Public Works crews are still clearing debris and hauling off fallen tree matter that people have left outside their homes.
Roads that were closed within the town limits included Route 212 towards Woodstock, King’s Highway, Churchland Lane and Churchland Road, due to downed power lines. Railroad Avenue was still closed as of May 16, and crews from the Town of Ulster are currently assisting the Saugerties Highway Department with tree debris removal on Saugerties Manor Road, Carrelis Road, Apple Tree Drive, Echo Hill Road, Joseph’s Boulevard, Houtman Road, Happy Road, Pine Grove School Road and Railroad Avenue.
“The volunteer services, Central Hudson, the police department — they couldn’t have done a better job,” said Costello. “We’ll review, as we always do, how we did and what we could do better. In this instance, the emergency response was extraordinary. Within minutes of the storm passing, DPW crews were clearing debris off the roads to make them accessible again, fire departments were responding to emergency calls. Their response was very quick, organized and measured. It made me proud of our community. … There’s been loss of life in communities south of us —we should count our blessings that we weren’t impacted that way.”