ERIE, Pa. — Downed trees and crushed cars were a common site along the path of Sunday’s tornado.
The National Weather Service estimates the EF-1 tornado struck between 6:05 and 6:10 p.m. near Sterrettania Road.
Along the path is the home of Tim Nicewonger on Zuck Road, south of Route 20, in Millcreek Township.
He said, “We got home about 7 o’clock. Had I left the other house a half hour earlier, we probably would’ve been in the middle of this.”
In the middle of the tornadic storm, winds were estimated between 86 and 110 mph.
Nicewonger said the top of his chimney was gone. There was also minor damage to the gutters and siding of the house. Trees and large branches missed a vehicle sitting in his driveway, but it could not escape flying debris.
“We had damage to the vehicle. This one in particular, because somebody’s trampoline that blew across three doors up–blew across and hit the back end of the car and did some damage.”
After impacting neighborhoods in Millcreek Township, the tornado roared into the Erie city limits and traveled toward communities around Greengarden Boulevard.
Erie resident Ted Rastetter counted at least three fallen trees in the backyard of his Oakwood Street home. He said the trees had come from neighboring properties.
“One took out part of my fence. Another one took out that entire fence that was right there. And then the one from the Greengarden side took out the rest of the fence.”
Across the street, Starla Wingerter said the tornado caught her by surprise.
“And all of a sudden, I heard this… actually, my whole head felt like a vice grip was on it. And my son looked out the window, and I heard him say: ‘Something’s wrong.’ And then, we kept stupidly staring at the window. Then, I realized I was frozen. And then, we ran.”
Erie County and much of the viewing area was under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, but the tornado came without warning.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for central Erie County at 6:40 p.m. for a second storm that had “radar indicated rotation.” That thunderstorm did not produce a tornado.
As residents began to pick up the pieces Sunday night and Monday morning, the community witnessed another powerful force.
“What really amazed me was last night when we were walking around, we had so many people say: ‘Are you guys alright? Is there anything we can do to help?’ I’ve never seen it in this part of the community.”
Some properties that were not affected by the tornado saw damage from straight line winds and flooding, including two storm-related deaths caused by a wall collapse on East 30th Street in Erie.
By early Tuesday, only several hundred Penelec customers combined remained without power in Erie and Crawford counties.