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Damaging winds

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS High winds flattened this barn in Walker Township last night.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS High winds flattened this barn in Walker Township last night.
Published May 04. 2011 05:00PM

A strong northeast straight-line wind gust or microburst caused more than a mile-and-a-half of destruction last night around 8:15 as it swept through a section of Walker Township, ranging from Shady Lane to Catawissa Road in the Lewistown Valley.

The thin wind gust, which only lasted 10-15 seconds, resulted in a number of incidents, consisting of a farmer being thrown six feet into the air, fallen and uprooted trees, collapsing of a dairy barn with 25 cows inside and flattened fields, as well as other damage to farm equipment and property located within the narrow one-and-a-half-mile wall of destruction.

Neighbors reported hearing high roaring winds followed by an even louder noise sounding like a passing freight train.

The first location estimated to be struck was the western portion of Shady Lane, which had six large 100-foot-tall trees uprooted and laid across the road.

Mike Canfield, who was on a dock with four friends at the Rosemount Pond, said the wind kept getting louder and louder. They quickly ran for cover, only seconds from witnessing the trees uproot themselves and fall onto Shady Lane.

The wind gust continued its destruction as it traveled northeast on Shady Lane for about three quarters of a mile, knocking down about a dozen small to large size trees and tearing off branches, as well as causing minor damages to homes.

"My house shook and it sounded like a freight train passing," said Ed Fisher of the 1100 block of Fisher Lane. "The power flickered too."

One of the wind's last acts of destruction was the collapse of the Donnon's Dairy barn, owned by George and Debbie Donnon, located at the intersection of Valley Road and Catawissa Road. While outside in between his barns and checking his cows' feed, Donnon heard a loud noise and before he had time to react was lifted into the air about six feet. He wasn't injured, but was shaken up.

The Donnons, their neighbors and volunteers with the New England Fire Company helped move nine calves and 16 pregnant cows from the collapsed barn into safer areas. One cow suffered severe injuries after a beam landed on its head.

Some equipment destroyed or damaged consisted of a farm tractor, haybine, corn silage chopper, bedding shredder and other equipment. The stress of the incident also resulted in a heifer giving birth to her first calf. Members of the New England Fire Company helped Donnon deliver the calf, which they named "Storm."

In addition to the collapse of their barn, a portion of their alfalfa crop was flattened, windows were broken, a metal siding wall was blown off a second barn and a concrete portion of the second barn was also knocked down. A cat was also killed as the wind gust moved a hay wagon 40 feet and on top of the cat. PPL crews also responded.

New England Valley Fire Company closed Shady Lane and spent most of the day today cutting and removing the uprooted and fallen trees.

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