'It was just nuts': Strong winds batter CNY Wednesday, bringing damage, power outages

Strong winds wreaked havoc on central New York on Wednesday

Very strong winds across central New York on Wednesday brought a slew of downed trees and light poles, house damage, power outages, closed roadways and even one death.

Winds topped 60 mph in many areas throughout the region during the day.

Some peak wind gusts include:

  • Batavia: 75 mph
  • Fort Drum: 68 mph
  • Rochester: 66 mph
  • Wolcott: 66 mph
  • Harrisburg: 66
  • Oswego: 61 mph
  • Syracuse: 52 mph

The winds were too much for a small sugar shack that collapsed in the Jefferson County town of Theresa, killing Joanas L. Swartzentruber, 36, while in the middle of maple syrup production. A 15-year-old boy was just able to escape the building's collapse. Swartzentruber was pronounced dead at the scene.

Farther south, Ashley Britt wasn't home when a large tree fell on her home in Phoenix, but her sister and daughter were. Britt said trees have come down near her house in the past, but this one was by far the worst and the largest.

"My sister was watching my daughter, who is 6, and she told me it was not that bad," Britt said. "I didn't think it was that bad. So I got home and I saw it. And where the location of the tree is where my daughter's bedroom was, so my first thought was 'what if my daughter was in the room?' You know? So, we're not so upset about the house, but we're just thankful that she wasn't upstairs in her room playing, you know? A house can be replaced, where lives can't."

Other people in the region were dealing with not only damage, but power outages. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, around 62,000 National Grid customers were without power throughout western, central and northern New York. Crews will be working throughout the night to restore electricity to those customers.

RELATED | GALLERY: Windy Wednesday in CNY

Kymberly Conklin said her home in Phoenix lost power. She went down to the local Nice N' Easy for batteries for a flashlight but the store was also without power so they were not able to get anyone in.

"This is crazy. It was snowing like five minutes ago, with the wind, it was just nuts," Conklin said. "The trees were blowing back and forth and we just got a report there was a tree on a house down the road."

Further west where the winds were most intense, the gusts prompted a state of emergency to be declared in Monroe County, where multiple tractor trailers tipped over in the roadway.

While the winds caused damage to homes and knocked out power, they also wreaked havoc on mother nature herself. On the shore of Oneida Lake, the might of the wind was on full display as it pushed ice piles up onto the shoreline, stacking them more than 6 feet high in some places. The ice even picked up and moved some large rocks.

“If the lake is high and the winds are ferocious, you just never know what can happen," said Cathleen Powers, of Sylvan Beach.

The powerful image is one people along the lake see every year to some extent, and every year people like Bob Atwood come out to get a close-up look.

“This is just Mother Nature at her best," Atwood said. "She’s showing her strength. She says ‘hey, get out of the way. I’m coming!’”

Atwood has lived along Oneida Lake for nine years and knows just how costly the weather can be.

“Oh it can be very devastating as far as damage goes, but as far as the coastline and people and their homes down there, it could be bad for them too and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s mother nature’s wrath," Atwood said.

As crews clean up the mess from this storm, National Grid wants to remind everyone that if you see power lines down, do not approach them. Stay away and call 911.

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