EDGMONT — Two weeks after the Halloween storm that tore through Delaware County, Ridley Creek State Park is just getting back to normal.
Park manager Phillip Schmidt said the entire 2,600-acre park lost both power and water following the storm. While power has mostly been restored, water is still out, though he was hopeful it would be restored by Friday.
Schmidt said most of the 26 homes that the park rents out on the property have their own wells, however the mansion, which is a popular wedding venue with catering by Peach Tree Catering, has been without water.
“We had two weddings the weekend after the tornado and they were highly affected,” Schmidt said. “We’ve had some angry phone calls but most people know we had a tornado come through.”
The park has a water tower that is filled by Aqua, however an uprooted tree destroyed pipes, leaving the park dry. Schmidt said Aqua did bring in a potable water tank to provide water for the mansion and for Hidden Valley Farms to have water for their horses.
The most visual and long-term result of the storm are the hundreds of trees brought down by the tornado that cut through the park north of Gradyville Road. Schmidt gave a rough estimate of 100 acres of direct tornado damage north of Gradyville Road with 1,000 acres having more minor damage. He said the bridle trails Loops A and B were both blocked as a result.
“It’s wild just to see the main path of destruction,” said Schmidt. “It was pretty isolated, elsewhere there were trees down, but not near the the swath of destruction on the north end.”
Partner state parks have been sending crews, including Delaware Canal State Park, Marsh Creek and French Creek State Parks to help clear the paths. Schmidt said they hoped to have the more heavily traveled bridle loop A cleared by the end of next week with the B loop two weeks later.
Schmidt said most other trails were not affected.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF2 tornado packing winds as high as 135 miles per hour slammed into a neighborhood in Thornbury. The storm continued eastward, and carved a nasty path out of next-door Edgmont Township, including a direct path through the park.
“If it’s along the trail or a picnic any area people will be using on a regular basis, we will take care of it,” Schmidt said when asked about damaged trees. “If its in the middle of the forest, we will let nature take its course.”
Schmidt said he will be seeking extra money for clean-up but was uncertain if it would be forthcoming.
Schmidt said power surges following the storm also contributed to the damage, destroying two heaters including his own. In addition, his garage was destroyed in the storm.
There was minimal damage to the Colonial Era Plantation and Hidden Valley Farms, aside from the loss of water and damage to fencing.
Over at Clonmel Farms, owner Dana Pound said damage to the property was extensive with more than 40 downed trees.
“We were hit pretty hard.” said Pound, who has been running the boarding facility for the past 35 years on leased state park land. “Nothing alive was injured, but we lost every single pasture, the trees took all the fencing out.”
It will be six months just cleaning up the fencing, then all these trees that are partially damaged will have to come down, they are dangerous, widow makers. You’re looking at $1,200 per tree. I have insurance but the trees aren’t covered, the fencing isn’t covered.”
In addition to the trees, two horse trailers were damaged, jump stands were blown away, a car was crushed and tractor implements were destroyed.
“It was just mind-blowing,” said Pound. “We get high winds all the time. The picture windows started to bow in. I didn't hear anything going down during the storm but when it went past we went outside and everything on our patio was gone."
The trail to the state park is now blocked and "it looks like match sticks in the woods,” she said.
“We had baled shavings that were ripped open like someone had toilet papered the trees with them, It also blew into the barn. and was wound around the electric above the horses' heads.”
Luckily the late 1700’s era barn, which sits in a valley, was not damaged.
"I'm glad nobody was hurt, " said Schmidt.
"We heard it, me and my fiance were home in bed about 11:45," Schmidt said. "It went from these are really strong winds, we should close the windows, to we should get into the basement?
“The word awesome comes to mind to see the damage done it filled me with awe,” said Schmidt. "But, I hope I don’t have to go through this again.”