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Spring's fury

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS A high wind gust Mondayu evening leveled this large historic 100-year old barn on Kettle Road in Walker Township.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS A high wind gust Mondayu evening leveled this large historic 100-year old barn on Kettle Road in Walker Township.
Published May 24. 2011 05:18PM

Families took shelter in their basements as a strong multidirectional wind gust or microburst descended on their homes just after 7 p.m. Monday evening in the area of Kettle Road and Catawissa Road in Lewistown Valley, Walker Township.

"It wasn't a tornado. More like black streaks coming up and down vertically and moving in multiple directions," stated Dale Heisler of 985 Catawissa Road, as he tried to explain what he saw after high winds heavily damaged his barn, destroyed a neighbor's barn and damaged multiple properties located on both Kettle Road and Catawissa Road.

Last night's damaging winds, which lasted only a few minutes, closely resembled the unexplained wind gusts three weeks ago in Lewistown Valley that also destroyed a large barn and uprooted about a dozen trees.

One of the first properties affected by yesterday's wind was the home of Larry Bensinger Sr., of 105 Kettle Road, who suffered the loss of a large wooden barn, damage to his home, as well as damage to his son's vehicle after a large tree was uprooted and fell on it.

The strong wind also picked-up and threw Bensinger's aluminum fishing boat into a nearby field.

The wind also took out multiple power and utility lines, resulting in the loss of power and communications for many surrounding homes.

Located directly across the road from the Bensinger family, was the property of Danny and RaeAnne Moyer, 105 Kettle Road, who rushed their family into the basement after losing power, feeling their house shake and hearing the sound of a freight train getting louder and louder.

They emerged to notice heavy damage to their roof, shingles, siding, gutters, railing, pool, chicken coop, kid's play gym, as well as three of their vehicles.

The wind blew large pieces of the Bensinger's barn into the Moyer's yard, just missing their home.

The Moyer family stated they lived here 21 years and have never had this happen before.

Daughter Brianne stated, "It happened very fast and it was so unreal."

The Moyers do have insurance.

Joan and Ron Smith, who live only a few doors down from both the Bensinger and Moyer families pointed out that the wind didn't touch their property at all, adding "Not a single fallen leaf or twig was laid on our property."

The next property in the wind's path of destruction was Brian and Brook Heisler, 981 Catawissa Road. They rushed their children into their basement after hearing smashing glass and high winds.

Following the scare, they emerged to see broken windows, damage to their garage, a lot of broken glass in their kitchen and metal debris outside piled high against their side door.

Brooke stated, "This is something you see in the movies."

Dale Heisler, of 985 Catawissa Road, was in his large free stall barn when three quarters of its roof was lifted hundreds of feet into the air and dropped about a hundred feet away. The side of Dale's heifer barn was also blown in.

Dale, who has lived at his residence about 55 years, said his barn was also partly destroyed in the mid 90s after a high wind gust or tornado, traveling northeast, leveled dozens of trees at the Rabbit Run Reservoir.

Neighbor Bert Leiby, of 980 Catawissa Road, also suffered damage to his property, as the high wind ripped the door off and damaged the roof to a storage building on his property.

About four other properties also had major to minor damages from the short-lived wind gust. A nearby neighbor stated that everyone was so lucky no one was hurt or killed.

He also mentioned that they pulled a 2-foot by 4-foot wooden-projectile out of the ground.

All the families affected by the devastating winds were thankfuld to the New England Fire Company, township officials, church members, family, neighbors and friends who rushed to their aid immediately following the devastation.

Crews from PPL and Verizon also responded to restore power and communications.

Although tornado warnings were issued for this part of Schuylkill County yesterday evening, there were no official reports of a tornado touching down.

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