MECHANICVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Today is the 25th Anniversary of one of the most powerful tornadoes to hit Upstate NY. It had an F3 rating at the time, tracking right over Mechanicville and across Northern Rensselaer County.
WTEN had just purchased a new radar-called Storm Tracker, a Baron Radar that was by far the best at the time with Doppler Radar, it was the first in the area. We had it for one week and as some may remember the Friday before, it did a tremendous job for a huge hailstorm and severe storms that hit the area. We were impressed by the radar’s tracking capabilities. This was Doppler Radar at it’s best. Little did we know just how important this piece of new equipment would become.
I will never forget as we were broadcasting live on a Sunday for the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon. We were all here at the station joined by doctors, guests, hospital staff and volunteers. All of our on-air talent, reporters, and photographers were here as well.
When I looked at the radar I was scared. I said we must stop the telethon and do storm coverage. They stopped immediately. I was so thankful. I think they could see my eyes and they knew this was going to be bad.
The Storm Tracker showed the tornado forming just east of Amsterdam. It was still aloft and intensifying over Saratoga County on it’s way to devastating Mechanicville and Stillwater.
It had a strike time at 4:15PM on our Storm Tracker Radar. The clocks stopped in Mechanicville at 4:15PM. We had 30 minutes of lead time which back then was unprecedented. This tornado was on the ground for 30 miles and tracked along Rt. 67 and made it all the way to Bennington County before lifting. At the time-$71 Million in damages, and 68 people were injured.
Then at 4:30PM the rotation was forming just north of the station. I ran around the building yelling to everyone get away from the windows, get in the hallways or on the bottom floor. This tornado was just up the road and tracked near the airport. The observer at the time could see it on the north runway.
The winds gusted to 82 miles per hour and since I have been here, that is the strongest wind gust ever recorded. Here at the station as the winds blew around the building at 60 miles per hour, you could see the large windows bowing due to the severe pressure changes. Fortunately, they held against the wind.
We had our entire staff here at the building and we went from telethon mode to storm coverage instantaneously. Crews went everywhere. The coverage was truly amazing.
That evening, Governor George Pataki, came in to NEWS10 and spent an hour live on set talking with us about the damage, the clean-up, the injuries and the states response to help.
A storm I will never forget.
Here is a great link from the National Weather Service to read. I thank them for this complete report on the day and the great job they did on this infamous tornado in Upstate NY. Lives were saved with the warnings issued this day.