Wednesday tornado damages homes, property in Windham

Trees get cleared away from Rudy Chieka’s Windham home. All photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A tornado, spawned during a Wednesday afternoon thunderstorm damaged homes, barns and other structures and devastated trees in the Timberside section of Windham.

On the Cover: Tom Grondine’s farm house sustained tree damage during Wednesday’s storm. Click any photo to launch photo gallery.

Meteorologist Ray O’Keefe, of the National Weather Service out of Albany, arrived in Windham on Friday to survey the damage and confirmed it was a tornado, and — on a scale of 0-5 — on the “high end of EF-1.”  The NWS also confirmed two other EF-1 tornadoes that day — one at 2:24 p.m. in Johnstown, N.Y., and to the east  at 3:35 p.m. in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.  No one was injured or killed in any of the tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.

Jeff Chase, who has at home on Glebe Mountain Road, told The Telegraph on Friday that between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, winds swept down from the top of the mountain, across the old Glebe Mountain Farm and down to Windham Hill Road in a line that spared buildings and trees on either side of its path.

From left, Jeff Chase and Rudy Chieka survey the damage and the cleanup.

“So much for no tornadoes in Vermont,” mused Rudy Chieka as he watched a bucket truck and an excavator remove a tree from the roof of his house.

“You should have been here this morning. They’ve taken truckloads of trees away,” said Chieka, sweeping his arm across the front yard. “This was all covered with trees. I planted some of them 30 years ago.”

According to O’Keefe’s assessment, the tornado, with wind speeds of 105-110 mph, began about 5:05 p.m.  From the damage, he estimated it at 350 yards wide and traveling three-quarters of a mile at 30 mph.

Trees are sheared off.

Up and down Glebe Mountain and Harrington roads, downed trees line the roadway, cut up and piled to  open it to traffic and machinery. Palmer Goodrich of P&L Trucking maintains the road on behalf of the neighborhood association.

The neighborhood on the eastside of Glebe Mountain — opposite Magic Mountain Ski area — lost power during the storm, part of a line of thunderstorms that were sweeping through southern Vermont since early morning. Crews worked to replacing a utility pole that the winds took down and electricity was restored at around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, according to France Chase.

Google map of the area damaged.

She noted that trees were both pushed over with the roots attached and twisted off well up the trunk.

“I watched them cut the trees with the root balls laying in our yard,” said Chase. “And as soon as they got through the tree, the trunk with the roots would pop right back up.”

Tom Grondine of Westport, Mass., has owned the old Glebe Mountain Farm property for about three and a half years and had just arrived there around noon on Friday.

Tom Grondine, owner of Glebe Mountain Farm, looks back at his barn roof, which was peeled by Wednesday’s storm.

“I walked around the place and couldn’t believe it,” said Grondine. “The sugar shack is gone, the house is damaged and the barn roof is gone.” Asked if the evaporator in the sugar house survived, Grondine said he didn’t know since he had not been able to get across the fallen trees to reach it.

“What do you do with all of this?” mused Grondine, surveying a large area of downed and damaged trees.

NWS meteorologist Joe Villani said that tornadoes are unusual for this part of Vermont. “This is the first one we have had this year,” he said.
— Cynthia Prairie contributed to this article.


Tom Grondine could not reach his sugar house to assess the damage to equipment.

Downed trees surround a neighbor’s home.

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  1. Andy O says:

    Hope you recover that evaporator.