Press-Republican

July 19, 2012

Fierce winds bowl through Lake Placid

By KIM SMITH DEDAM, Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — A super-cell string of thunderstorms tore through Lake Placid Tuesday, bearing winds that reached 70 to 80 miles per hour.

Upended maples and white and red pine trees lay in piles in areas along Mirror Lake and Lake Placid lake in the Olympic village; as they fell, they tore up shoreline and, in some cases, crunched lakefront rooflines.

“The cloud was purple,” said contractor Jeff Brownell of Johns Brook Remodeling in Lake Placid, describing the storm’s arrival just past 4 p.m. Tuesday.

He and a crew helped clear intact trees that had been ripped out of the ground beside a lakefront home owned by Denise Bujold.

Next door, six giant red pines lay flat like dominos, uprooted entirely on the lawn of a waterfront home owned by Steve Wilson.

None of the trees landed on either house, but others here weren’t so fortunate.

‘HEARD A CRACK’

Two families are renting a lakefront house at Breezy Point on the eastern shore of Lake Placid, preparing for Ironman competition on Sunday. Karen Payes and Heidi Powell were home with their children when the storm hit.

“The kids saw the trees swaying wildly, the rain picked up and became a sheet of water blowing sideways,” Payes said.

“All of a sudden we heard a crack, and it just came down.”

The 70-plus-foot red pine was torn up, shoreline earth and all, and fell against the summer home’s porch roof.   

The building is owned by Lake Placid resident John Rosenthal, and Powell said they reported the damage and the giant pine that rested parallel to the neatly mowed lawn. 

No one was injured when the tree came crashing down, a fact both women were grateful for.

“My son got anxious about a ball he had left outside,” Payes said. 

He went out on the porch to grab it about two minutes before the tree fell.

“I ran to close the windows,” Payes said. “By the time I got upstairs, the floor was covered with water. That was one of those times you say, that was no ordinary storm.”

MICROBURST

Meteorologist Andy Nash at the National Weather Service in Burlington said damaging winds, horizontal rain and localized damage are signature signs of a microburst event.

“The storm rolled through, and all along the way, it was pretty strong winds,” he said Wednesday.

“It’s what we call a super cell with a microburst wind coming down from the thunderstorm. It will produce fairly localized damage, and being near the water — Lake Placid in this case — also helped. Where you have the open water, the wind is going to go full steam with nothing really to stop it from producing this kind of damage.”

The National Weather Service charted storm damage in a string of dots from Potsdam — through Lake Clear, Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake and into Lake Placid. Foul weather skipped Irene-torn villages in Jay and Keene, but Willsboro Marina reported one gust of wind hit 100 miles per hour.

Damage was heaviest along the western edge of Mirror Lake, around Signal Hill and on the southern edge of Lake Placid lake.

PUMP HOUSE DAMAGE

Lake Placid Public Works Superintendent Brad Hathaway said fallen trees punched holes in the village’s pump house roof.

“It’s being repaired on Friday,” he said. “Our crews were there until 10  last night, and the Fire Department came and gave us a hand with the new aerial ladder. They were a lot of help. We did as many repairs as we could on Tuesday night.

“Most of the localized damage was to trees from straight line winds. We’re hoping everyone will be patient while we clean up over the next few days.”

SHORELINE RUPTURES

Mark Wilson, president of the Shore Owners Association of Lake Placid, said significant damage — where the shoreline is peeled back — starts at the southern end of Lake Placid lake’s “west lake,” near the main outlet.

“That is where the winds first hit and nailed the southern end. There’s about a quarter-to-a-half-mile stretch along the western side of the peninsula hit in multiple areas. The largest stretch of shoreline uprooted was about 50 or 60 feet long.”

Wilson believes the storm funneled through the low point of the McKenzie Range then ran toward Lake Placid’s lakes.

“A lot of the Shoreline Trail is now impassable. The association is requesting that the public not travel to the dam,” he said. “A crew will be out Friday morning to clear the trails.”

Crews from the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department and town and village Public Works were out until 1 a.m. Wednesday, cutting trees and removing debris from roadways, side streets and sidewalks.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com