Tornado rips through northwestern Pa. farm


SALEM, Ohio – A normal night of milking for a father and son turned upside down as a tornado’s raging winds swept through their dairy farm last week.

Where. The tornado touched down May 25 at approximately 5:23 p.m. just west of Interstate 79 about eight miles south of Meadville, Pa., according to the National Weather Service of Cleveland.

F1 intensive. The twister was F1 intensive on the Fujita scale. With winds that range from 73 to 120 mph, a tornado at this level causes structural damage to buildings, trees, and power lines in the touch down area.

Tracked. The tornado headed east seven miles before lifting at 5:30 p.m. on West State Route 322 in Cochranton, Pa.

Farm owner. “I feel very fortunate,” said Alan Hart.

Alan and Karen Hart farm 700 acres along Route 285 near Cochranton. Their family milks 100 head of cows and plants corn, soybeans, small grain and hay.

Hart also owns Alan Hart and Sons Farm and Industrial Equipment.

What happened. Alan’s son, Donald Hart, and grandson, Evan Hart, were milking in the barn when the tornado hit the hay storage at the side of the barn.

Hart says he had just left to get lunch when his son called him and told him of the emergency back home.

Injuries. Donald and Evan Hart were not injured.

There were no injuries reported to the National Weather Service after the storm.

Damage done. The tornado ripped off the roof of a 10,000-bushel grain bin and wrapped one roof around a newly purchased New Holland tractor.

The twister took off the slate roofs on the milking barn, as well as the machine shed roof, and scattered debris around the farmyard.

A power line was down but was back up by morning so that the milking could be done.

The work ahead. Although there is a lot of work ahead in replacing roofs, structural damage and cleaning, Hart said they were lucky that not more damage was done.

Hart’s business and neighbors received no damage.

Damage in other areas. Not far from the farm, in Greenwood and Fairfield townships, Hart said businesses suffered significant damage.

Doors were bent in and at the PPG Industries shipping plant, there was an eight tractor-truck pileup in a shipping yard.

Rebuilding together. The day after the tornado hit, Amish volunteers were already helping at the Hart farm, rebuilding the roofs of the buildings that had been torn off and neighbors brought food for those who were helping.

Lucky. Hart said the last storm they had through the area was in May 1985.

“We were lucky then and we were lucky again,” Alan said.

“I just feel very fortunate.”

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