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Violent weather rips through Odin, Bark Shanty

Heavy winds moving in twister fashion plowed tunnels through thick vegetation near Odin last Saturday. Photo compliments of Sherry Clark

Heavy winds moving in twister fashion plowed tunnels through thick vegetation near Odin last Saturday. Photo compliments of Sherry Clark

Residents of the Odin and Bark Shanty areas, north of Austin, know what they saw – whether the National Weather Service confirms it or not.

Sherry and Ed Clark were fishing at Stevenson Dam when the wind kicked up and the sky looking back toward Austin took on a strange appearance.

“It was a black thing – not really like a funnel cloud – just a tall, black wall that went up the side of the mountain,” Sherry said. “It was moving fast, but it didn’t look like anything was spinning. In about five minutes it was gone. It sort of turned white from the inside, and disappeared.”

They arrived back at their home in Upper Bark Shanty to find their cow fence down and numerous trees — some as high as 75 feet — knocked down and tangled, or snapped off. Two large apple trees were uprooted.

Amazingly, neither their house nor the barn was damaged. The storm swept between their house and garage, down the driveway, into the apple orchard and through a patch of pines.

Their sons were home, but otherwise occupied and didn’t look outside. They heard the trees snapping, and at first thought the sound was thunder.

Sherry said, “I asked ‘Weren’t you guys scared?’ and they said, ‘Kind of, but it went so fast, in a minute or two it was over with’.”

Trish and Denny Kio, who live in Lower Bark Shanty, were also away from home but heard from a neighbor about the storm’s swiftness.

The Kios found shingles torn off their house and the top of the garage chimney gone. Their propane grill was smashed, and the bin holding pool supplies had been picked up and opened, its contents scattered all over the yard.

While residents were surprised by the quickness of it all, animals in the neighborhood sensed something was up.

“Our neighbor, Phyllis Gleason, asked me how the dog was – he was at her house that day since we were away,” Trish Kio said. “She said he had taken off.”

Gleason said that when the wind kicked up, her cat began “going berserk.”

“It ripped over the couch, out to the kitchen, back into the bedroom,” Gleason recalled. “I opened the door and it headed for under the front porch.”

The wind blew the chairs off her porch and the plants went helter-skelter. The storm traveled to Kios’ and up the hollow past the home of Gleason’s sister and brother-in-law, Bonnie and Art Eckert, where a hay rake that was in the apple orchard ended up at the garage.

Gleason said she watched the wind bend, but not break, a cherry tree in the yard. There was no thunder, “just horrendous wind.”

Heavy rains followed. When Gleason reluctantly ventured out to close her trunk – which by then had about an inch of water in it – she could hear trees falling up the hollow.

Duran and Peggy Knapp, who live one valley over in Odin, witnessed the rotation of a cloud moving toward them from Bark Shanty. It struck them as strange because “the wind always blows down the valley, unless there’s a nor’easter or snowstorm. It was blowing in the wrong direction” – on a path to meet the wind coming down the valley, Peggy.

“It spun right up in front of us,” Knapp recalled. “We saw it spin into a full funnel – we actually saw it spin — but that didn’t last a hundred yards, and we saw it get knocked down. What was coming down must have been too strong for what was coming up. We could see it so clearly because it was raining so hard – it was kind of like a giant toilet flushing.”

“After there was no more danger, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” she recalled.

Despite the eyewitness accounts, Dave Ondrejik of the National Weather Service regional office for central Pennsylvania, said his agency received no calls about the occurrence. A toll-free number, 1-877-633-6772, is available so that individuals who spot tornadoes can report them. On weekdays, they can also be called in to the Potter County Emergency Management Agency at 274-8900.

Ondrejik said Doppler radar enables the agency to see what’s going on inside a thunderstorm, and catch the rotation of tornados that develop higher up, but not on the ground.

“This one sounds like it was just alive for a matter of seconds,” Ondrejik acknowledged. “It takes five minutes for our radar to make a complete scan of the atmosphere, and if it’s only around for a few seconds, it’s unlikely for us to have caught it,” he explained.

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