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Central New York News

Cleanup Underway After Storm Devastates Caroga Lake

Dangerous wind and lightning touched down in several Northeast areas this weekend. One of the worst storms hit the edge of the Adirondack Park on Saturday, moving through the Pine Lake Resort Village area of the town of Caroga. 

"Everyone knew goin' into the weekend there was gonna be thunderstorms throughout the days on the weekend, that was well publicized in the media and in the newspaper and local radio. I think the nature and severity, it was a very unusual strike where this path went, quite a bit of damage."  Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino says the heavy rains and strong winds hit early Saturday evening, taking down trees and power lines.

Barbara DeLuca is the chief of the Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company:  "The storm followed a very narrow path and struck the RV park and the campground at Pine Lake. Right within the area that was devastated there were structures that weren't touched. But then there were some that were totally devastated.  It lasted about 15 minutes, happened around 6:20, 6:30 Saturday evening."

DeLuca says first responders were expecting a few trees down. Giardino says no one foresaw the devastation and chaos that was to follow.   "Our office was inundated with 911 calls regarding the ramming of the wind and the trees up in Caroga Lake Pine Lake Park up in the town of Caroga."

DeLuca says about a thousand occupants of Pine Lake Campgrounds had gone to a music festival at Pine Lake Beach: a lucky break for them, as the storm took a path away from a huge outdoor tent that had been set up for the event.  "We didn't have as many injuries as we could have potentially had because of the timing of it, so many people were attending the music festival that they were not in their respective campers and or RV's."

DeLuca said the campground was severely damaged by the storm with some campers overturned and others crushed by trees. Some trailers in the mobile home park were destroyed. Emergency responders came from Fulton, Montgomery and Herkimer counties. The event was declared a "mass casualty incident."     "We sent eight ambulances out. Two went by ground to Albany Medical Center, and then the other six were taken to local hospitals."

It's expected that clean-up will take weeks. A state of emergency has been declared for Pine Lake.  "And we're asking that all people stay out of there, because it's such a danger to, could be potentially dangerous to people's lives. So we have it closed off for five days, and that was a collective decision, a collaborative decision made by the owner, and the fire officials, the fire coordinator, sheriff's department and myself."

The National Weather Service characterized the storm as a microburst, defined as a "localized column of sinking air within a thunderstorm." Winds during a microburst can reach a maximum speed of 100 mph — the equivalent of an EF-1 tornado.

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