Special Statement on Hamburg Tornado

Penn Dixie before tornado 20170720_123527
A heavy downpour at Penn Dixie shortly before the tornado touched down nearby. Photo courtesy Jay Wollin.

Special Statement on Hamburg Tornado
By Dr. Phil Stokes, Executive Director

Since we’ve had several inquiries regarding yesterday’s tornado, I decided to make a brief update to share with our members, supporters, and friends in the community.

Penn Dixie was very fortunate to avoid damage from yesterday’s (7/20/17) tornado that touched down in Hamburg, NY. As you can see below, the tornado touched down roughly one mile southwest of our park. That’s a little bit too close for comfort! Please note that there is an inconsistency in the graphic: the tornado had max winds of 105 mph and meets criteria for EF 1. According to the Enhanced Fujita classification system, EF 1 tornadoes typically result in:

“Moderate damage. Roofs severely stripped; mobile homes overturned or badly damaged; loss of exterior doors; windows and other glass broken.”

EF 2 tornadoes typically cause:

“Considerable damage. Roofs torn off well-constructed houses; foundations of frame homes shifted; mobile homes completely destroyed; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off ground.”

As you can read about in many reports, there was light to moderate damage in Hamburg, including both property and auto damage. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life.

Hamburg tornado
Path of the 7/20 tornado through Hamburg. Penn Dixie is located approximately near the ‘S’ in Athol Springs on the left side of the map. There is an inconsistency in the graphic — a tornado with 105 mph winds is generally classified EF 1. Image from Todd Santos/Channel 4.

At Penn Dixie, our staff acted immediately when they recognized the threat of the approaching storm. Following protocol, the park was closed and visitors were ushered to their vehicles. Our summer day camp was suspended and our camp staff transported the campers to the safety of Big Tree Volunteer Fire Co. The park remained closed — and the campers remained in safe quarters — until the storm had safely passed over the area. See below for post-storm video clips from Jay Wollin.


I thank our diligent staff — Jeffrey Dietz, Jonathan Hoag, Rhiannon Starks, and Jason Wollin — for making informed decisions and taking swift action. They made visitor safety the top priority. I also thank the volunteers from the Town of Hamburg and Big Tree Volunteer Fire Co. who gave our campers a special tour of the fire hall during the storm. I’m sure they won’t forget the experience!


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