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Saturday, June 18, 2022

National Weather Service Surveys Effects of Thursday Storm:

No tornado, but winds estimated at
100 mph in Livingston County storm

Big Tree Road in Livonia
Cleanup efforts continued Friday and   a   survey   team   from   the National   Weather   Service   was investigating in the aftermath of an intense storm which roared through the area the evening before.

The National Weather Service has determined in a preliminary assessment that the storm wasn’t a tornado which passed through an area which included Geneseo, Lakeville, Conesus Lake and Livonia. But the strong winds – estimated at 100 mph by the Weather Service – downpours and hail knocked down trees and left thousands without power regardless.

“It got really black all of a sudden and the rain hit, and it was sideways,” said Sandy Sanderson of Lima Road, whose small backyard was almost entirely covered by fallen branches and a large tree trunk that had split.

It was a similar look down the entire street in the village which was closed after a large maple tree fell across the road. Piles of branches lined the street hours after the storm passed as village crews worked to make the street passable.

Jeanie Smith’s house was obscured by several large branches that had fallen in her driveway and on her home’s roof. She was inside the house at the time and said she felt the structure shake, but it did not appear that the tree penetrated the home.

The storm covered a distance of 8 miles, with a maximum width of 400 yards wide. Peak wind gusts were estimated at 100 mph, according to a preliminary report from the Weather Service.

A Geneseo man escaped serious injury while traveling in his car on Lima Road. The car was engulfed by fallen branches, including one large branch that penetrated the windshield on the passenger side and extended to behind the driver’s seat.

“It was like a missile had hit the car,” said Geneseo Fire Chief Andrew Chanler.

The man was taken to a hospital to be checked. Injuries were non-life-threatening, Chanler said.

The fire chief said while responding to one of the first calls for aid— a tree fallen on a car on Center Street—he was astonished to see people driving on sidewalks to get around downed wires and pedestrians walking over and under downed wires. He said such wires potentially pose significant danger and should always be treated as if they are live.


Geneseo Central School was closed Friday morning due to a power outage as crews worked to restore electricity to more than 800 customers of RG&E and National Grid, most in Geneseo and Livonia on Friday morning. Geneseo’s remaining students took their Regents exams at Livonia Central School instead. Livonia Central School was outside of the areas affected by the power outage, according to National Grid’s outage map.

Power had been almost fully restored by late Friday night.

The storm came on quickly, with the first reports of power lines down in Leicester coming in to the Livingston County 911 Center at 4:07 p.m. Six minutes later was the first report of a tree down on a vehicle in the village of Geneseo, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

While wind and rain was widespread in Geneseo, the most significant damage occurred in an area that Chanler described as the upper village, which included upper Court Street, Lima Road, the Temple Hill area, and Route 20A leaving the village toward Livonia

During an interview at the fire hall, which is near where Center Street and Route 20A intersect, the chief noted how unusual it was to see 20A – a busy road with restaurants, a gas station and two stoplights – quiet and dark.

The Weather Service said widespread wind damage began just to the east of the SUNY Geneseo campus and continued to intensify through the Temple Hill Cemetery. Over the initial path of the thunderstorm wind damage, multiple hardwood and softwood trees were uprooted or significantly damaged.

As the storm continued eastward, roughly following Route 20A, a silo was completely destroyed on a dairy farm and continuous hard and softwood tree uprooting and trunk shears were observed, the Weather Service said.

Damage then continued eastward across Conesus Lake with significant hard and softwood tree damage occurring on the east side of lake, including flipping pontoon boats on the lake, the Weather Service said.

"This is the only section of the storm wind damage that exhibited anything other than purely linear wind damage," the Weather Service said in a public information statement on Friday afternoon. "However, the storm survey team determined this was likely due to shoreline topography and surface roughness, changes that would affect the wind flow rather than any tornadic evidence."

The storm continued eastward to do more tree damage in Livonia and minor roof damage to a school.

Richard J. McCollough, a former weatherman with WHEC-TV, channel 10 in Rochester, and chief meteorologist for WDKX radio in Rochester, experienced the storm from his home in Conesus.

“We had strong winds, heavy downpours and lightning,” he said in an email interview with The Daily News. “But, not the force as up the road in Livonia and Geneseo.”

He included an image from his Weatherfield Farm Doppler radar in his email.

“The red indicates the bullseye of most intense part of the cell and if you look closely, purple, which indicates hail,” McCollough wrote. “I didn’t make a site survey, but I suspect the damage was in a line, as opposed to on a spiral, radiating debris out in a circle. Another thing that says straight line winds is, that classic hook echo was not detected by Doppler Radar.”

The damage occurred as a series of strong thunderstorms moved through Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming and Livingston counties. The area had been under a tornado watch due to the anticipated bad weather.

Reports emerged quickly of downed trees and wires in Livingston and Orleans counties, with Livingston receiving the worst of the damages. At its peak, more than 4,200 customers were without electricity in the GLOW region — most of them in Livingston County — with the numbers reduced to about 800 by Friday morning.

Lima Road was among the hardest hit areas of Geneseo. Nearby, Temple Hill Cemetery suffered extensive tree damages as countless trees had branches ripped off and a number of trees, including a pine tree estimated at 70-feet tall, were uprooted. The scent of freshly cut pine lingered in parts of the cemetery Thursday night due to the number of affected evergreens.

Pictures from Livonia and Conesus showed uprooted trees, downed wires, and damaged homes, including a garage that was extensively damaged after a tree had fallen on its roof.

The Livonia Fire Department reported via Facebook that it had responded to 30 calls for service between 4:45 and 9 p.m. on June 16. The calls included a possible structure fire, CPR in progress, trees and wires down on vehicles, houses, and in roadways.

The department thanked “community members for being patient with us while we handled these calls. Most importantly thank you to our members who assisted during these hours that appeared to have no ending in site.”

National Weather Service Buffalo Science Operations Officer Dave Zaff said a survey team was in Geneseo Friday morning. The team was expected to visit the village, Livonia and several other spots.

“It’s either going to be a tornado or it’s what going to be what we call straight-line winds. It’s significant enough that we’re doing a damage survey,” Zaff said.

The NWS says when most people think about winds associated with a thunderstorm, they think tornadoes.

But during most years, there are far more damage reports from thunderstorm straight line winds than from tornadoes. Straight-line winds are thunderstorm winds that have no rotation, i.e. not a tornado.

Downbursts are a common cause of wind damage from a thunderstorm. They can reach over 100 mph and are caused by air being dragged down by precipitation.

When the air reaches the ground, it spreads outward across the surface of the land it encounters in a straight line.

Tornadoes are rare in the GLOW region, though there was a confirmed EFO tornado in April in Alexander and an EF1 tornado that struck the Springwater area last September. The Sept. 13 twister that moved through the towns of Conesus and Springwater was only the second confirmed in the county in the last 61 years, according to historical data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Since January 1950 there have been nine confirmed tornadoes in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans or Wyoming counties. Staff writer Brian Quinn also contributed to this report.

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