Tornado confirmed in Lehigh County

September 8, 2008 4:45:43 AM PDT
The National Weather Service confirmed the touchdown of a tornado in Allentown on Ssaturday.The tornado produced winds up to 95 miles an hour. It uprooted trees, tore off roofs and sent debris everywhere.

"I saw trees in the air; they looked like giant bushes, spinning up in the air, shingles and everything. I said, 'Oh my God, it's a tornado.' I couldn't believe it. I was so scared," witness Orlanda Rivera said.

"The wind came just so fast and so furious. I looked out and everything was just vertical," witness Dennis Bellesfield said.

Bellesfield's home suffered some minor damage. He says the tornado came out of nowhere.

"The next thing you know. I hear boom, boom, boom. My neighbor's roof is blowing off and hitting my house," Bellesfield said.

As Bellesfield and crews cleaned up the mess, officials spent the day assessing damage.

The Dieruff High School suffered the brunt of the twister. Its roof is mangled and windows were blown off.

"We have approximately 50 properties affected; 8 suffered minor damage, 1 major that being Dieruff High School," Mike Moore of Allentown Communications said.

The tornado only lasted about 60 seconds, but for those who experienced it, they were some of the most frightening seconds of their lives.

"I looked out and I saw rotation and I looked up in the sky and I saw everything rotating. So I went for my pets and my family and we ran to the basement," witness Lou Van Hauter said.

Strong winds and rain ripped through the area just after 3:00 p.m. in the area of the 800-block of North Irving Street.

Trees were downed and local properties sustained damage after the storm rolled through.

Part of the roof of Dieruff High School was damaged, and emergency crews had to scramble to make repairs.

Allentown police tell Action News that several people called police saying they saw funnel clouds in the area at the time of the damage.

"I saw the clouds coming down and I saw a bunch of stuff go up in the air. I called my wife and said 'look, it's a tornado!' We saw the tree house go up and fall down," said Allentown resident Harmin Smith.

Damage is estimated at about $1 million, mostly from the school.

No injuries have been reported.


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