Red Hook takes a big hit in July storms

The first July thunderstorm to do damage in Red Hook hit on July 3, blasting through the village in the early evening, blowing out the windows in Nekos Drugstore and shearing through trees up and down South Broadway.

Ten days later, on July 13, during the final World Cup game, an ancient Black Oak crashed through the roof of the home of Daniel Shapiro and Bonnie Loopesko on Woods Road in Tivoli, during another severe thunderstorm, causing major damage.

Another 10 days later, on July 23, farmers and residents on and around Feller-Newmark Road experienced a devastating storm that, according to McKeon Farms owner Robert McKeon, “seemed to last a matter of minutes” and brought down hundreds of trees at a number of farms.

“It was very sudden,” McKeon told the Observer. “There was a loud pop and I thought lightning hit the house when a big maple came down on the porch.”

McKeon said his porch, his roof, the livestock pens and agricultural fencing were severely damaged. He added that the roof on a cold storage facility at John Feller’s Oriole Orchards, at the end of the road, was torn off and the roof of the small Oriole Orchard tenant house was crushed by a tree.

McKeon said he thinks the storm created a micro-burst, a pattern of intense winds that hit the ground in a concentrated area, fan out horizontally at high speeds and can do more damage than a tornado.

According to a Hudson Valley Weather report on July 24, “This particular storm … caused numerous power outages and tree damage across this region, had multiple cloud to ground/structure lightning strikes, and contained straight line winds in excess of 58 MPH. Various weather sources confirm that these winds can be the direct result of a micro-burst. They are called “straight-line winds” to differentiate between a microburst and the circular rotational winds of a tornado.”

“Feller-Newmark was the epicenter,” said McKeon. “And unlike other severe storms, it was over in a matter of minutes. We’re looking at a case of tremendous property damage.”

On Fraleigh Lane, one road south of Feller-Newmark, David Fraleigh of Fraleigh’s Rose Hill Farm told the Observer he and his wife, Karen, were in the house shutting windows to prepare for the storm when a tree crashed through a wall and into their bedroom about five feet from where his wife was standing.

“We lost about six trees around the house and 300 trees in the orchard. The roof of the barn is about half peeled up, so that will need to be replaced,” he added.

Within two weeks everything was cleaned up, leaving a big pile of wood chips. “Which is good because I needed some wood chips, but this isn’t how I thought I would go about getting them,” he quipped.

McKeon praised the highway department for their decisive help clearing the road in the days after the storm.

Town of Red Hook Highway Superintendent Theresa Burke said the July 23 storm traveled from south to north and, of all the July storms, had the biggest impact on trees and property. A dozen trees fell on Feller-Newmark Road, two blocked Hapeman Hill Road, and Echo Valley Road also had some destruction, she said.

According to news reports, the same storm caused lightning to hit a tree near 65 Fraleigh Street in the village of Red Hook, setting fire to the residence’s garage. Lightning also hit a mobile home at the Mountain View Mobile Estates on Metzger Road in the town of Red Hook.

“Most of the trees involved power lines,” Burke said. “We closed Feller-Newmark Road because trees and downed lines were blocking the road.”

Though the roads were open the next day, Burke said it took three days for the highway department to do a full cleanup of the area.

McKeon, noted, however that while he and other area farmers can repair damaged structures and fencing, the damage to the environment may last longer.

“The clean-up has been non-stop for the last couple of weeks, with folks on Feller-Newmark Road helping each other out,” McKeon said. “The extent of the damage is such that some of the tree cleanup in the woods will never take place.”

Though no residents or livestock were injured in the storm, its aftermath will be felt for a long time to come, he added. Citing the effects of the recent severe winter, followed by a hail storm that destroyed his farm’s entire apple crop of 800 trees, McKeon noted that 2014 has been a difficult year for his farm.

Meanwhile, at the Aug. 4 Town of Red Hook Planning Board meeting, Shapiro and Loopesko asked for permission to cut down potentially dangerous trees on their property on Woods Road. Arborist George Venegrin had tagged 16 trees on their property so far. The tree that fell destroyed their kitchen and damaged other parts of the house, so much so that they are facing a complete renovation, they told the board.

“We’re not happy to remove the trees,” Shapiro said. “But we’re not happy to be fearful in our home.”

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