NWS confirms tornado struck NE Philly

May 18, 2011 9:04:33 PM PDT
Northeast Philadelphia residents are cleaning up after an EF0 tornado struck Wednesday afternoon..

The National Weather Service confirmed the EF0 tornado, the lowest class of tornado, had an estimated wind speed of 75 mph.

It touched down at 1:50 p.m. at Northeast Avenue and Red Lion Road. The path of the tornado was 300 feet long and 100 feet wide.

Exclusive surveillance video obtained by Action News from an Advance Auto Parts store on Northeast Avenue shows the violent storm barreling through Northeast Philadelphia. Trash cans and just about anything that wasn't nailed down can be seen blowing away.

A number of people told Action News they saw the funnel cloud.

"My friend was like is 'What is that? Is that a tornado?' and we saw a bunch of planks of wood and the funnel and we immediately backed up," Jake Wright of Northeast Philadelphia said. Emergency crews and Philadelphia police rushed to the scene after the strong storms ripped through this area.

The roof of R & R Car Repair crashed down on workers who suffered minor injuries. "The wind came real fast and then the tornado hit and I was watching the building collapse," witness Andre Bas of Northeast Philadelphia said.

Witness Meg Gianboy was working inside Beer Hut Beverages, which is next door to the body shop, during the storm. "It was just pretty crazy. The wind was going everywhere, I didn't know what to do; the roof was coming in so I was dodging stuff," Gianboy said. A closer look in the body shop revealed broken bricks, a car's windshield shattered, and another vehicle still on the lift with the roof sitting on top of it. The storm also caused trees to snap in half.

"It was pretty scary, we were sitting there eating lunch and it just happened so fast, like 10, 15 seconds," Keith Walsh of Northeast Philadelphia said.

Cleanup crews were on the scene Wednesday night trying to salvage what was damaged.

James Price and three other people, meanwhile, have been evacuated from their homes. Their second floor apartments were condemned.

Just five months ago, Price lost another home to a fire.

"How am I staying sane? I don't know, I think God was with me...[I'm going to] move on. What else can I do?" Price said.

The National Weather Service officials say it's tough to confirm an EF0 tornado, but because of what they were watching on radar, the witness' statements and the damage, they are positive a tornado impacted the area.

"The weaker ones are very hard sometimes to determine and you have to put all the pieces together. Like some of the EF4's and EF5's that they had down in the South a few weeks ago, they're very easy to tell, you see all the debris in all different directions," Joe Miketta of the National Weather Service said.

Over the past 60 years of records, only 9 tornadoes, including this most recent one, touched down in Philadelphia; three were EF2 tornadoes. The last Philly tornado was in 1999.