Jul 09, 2014 Allie Wenner Uncategorized
Neighbors picking up brush. Parents keeping a watchful eye over wandering children. Power lines laying on the streets. Trees on top of houses and cars. All of these were common sights during the evening hours of July 8 and the majority of the next day in the village of East Syracuse following a storm that tore through the village around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8.
Words like “war zone” and “Labor Day Storm” were being used by neighbors to describe the damage done to the village, which was described by Onondaga County Commissioner for Emergency Management Kevin Wisely as the “epicenter” of the storm. Not long after the winds died down and the rain stopped falling, Mayor Robert Tackman issued a state of emergency for the village.
“The village was just a wreck, it was in shambles,” said Lieutenant Nate Baker, of the East Syracuse Fire Department. “We couldn’t even get to some calls because of blocked roads. This is worse than the storm we got last year – more calls, more intense damage and so many people lost power.”
At 6 a.m. on July 9, National Grid reported that about 30,000 people in Onondaga, Madison and Oswego Counties were without power. And the largest outages took place in the town of DeWitt – including nearly all 1,600 customers in the village of East Syracuse.
According to National Grid Customer and Community Manager John Fiume, the power substation that feeds the village of East Syracuse was knocked out – possibly by lightning – and crews began working in the evening hours after the storm to begin repairing it. He hopes that customers will begin to see their lights coming back on by this evening.
“It’s not like we can just flip one switch and everyone’s power will come back on – we have to do it in phases,” Fiume said. “It’s a lengthy process, and safety is the number one priority.”
In addition to National Grid crews, the East Syracuse Fire Department and E.A.V.E.S. emergency medical technicians, fire departments, DPW crews and ambulance services from across the county came to help out. Mattydale, North Syracuse, Minoa, DeWitt and Fayetteville were among the many agencies that made their way into the village to help clean up the wreckage.
Baker said that for the East Syracuse Fire Department, priority calls included those dealing with trees on structures or vehicles, fires and odors.
“Trees on the roadway are of course a priority to the public, but not necessarily for us because the mayor declared a state of emergency for the village, which means no unnecessary travel,” he said.
The neighborhoods in the west part of the village, including Highland Ave., East Ave., West Yates St. as well as the Franklin Park area and across the bridge around West Second Street were hit the hardest, according to Baker.
Summer school was cancelled at East Syracuse Minoa High School and East Syracuse Elementary School on July 9 and the special education summer program at ESE was re-located to Woodland Elementary for the remainder of the week.
Picking up the pieces
Marty and Lisa Wojtaszck consider themselves lucky that their home on Allen Street was left unscathed following the storm. However, the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, located on the corner of West Yates St. and East Ave., by which they’re both employed, did not fare quite as well.
“We just had those new doors put on the shed a couple months ago,” Lisa said, sadly, as she eyed the remnants of what used to be the church’s storage shed. “The tree came down and took it out. It’s one of those situations where if you don’t laugh, you’re going to break down.”
Patrick Bianchi lives just a block away from the church. He had just gotten home from work and was at home in his Kinne Street residence when the storm hit.
“All of a sudden the wind started to blow and knew something was up,” Bianchi said. “I looked out the window I couldn’t see five feet in front of me – it was a wall of rain. The rain was coming in sideways through the windows and I had to run around and shut them all. And then 15 minutes later, it was over.”
Meanwhile, two blocks to the west, Mike Rendino was also at home, at 302 Highland Avenue, when the storm came through.
“I saw a lightning bolt hit right here between the two houses,” he said. “I’ve been in my house for ten years now and this is the first time I’ve lost power for more than a couple of minutes. One tree in the yards back here looks like it was twisted off. In terms of trees down, this is the worst storm I’ve seen.”