Tornado tears through Goshen

Leaving a half mile path of destruction in its path, an F1 tornado touched down in Goshen Township at approximately 8: 30 p.m. July 11.

“It is a miracle that no one was injured or killed,” said Goshen resident and eyewitness Gary Marsh.

Marsh, who lives at 6635 state Route 48, had just pulled into his driveway when the tornado hit. Before he even had a chance to get out of his car, he knew that something was terribly wrong.

“I saw debris flying around in a circular motion and heard the screaming, howling winds,” he said. “I heard a loud crack to my right and saw a 30 foot pine tree snap like a twig; I immediately smelled the pungent odor of pine. When I saw my boat slide across the grass about 50 feet, I knew it was more than just a thunderstorm.”

It was not determined that a tornado had struck the Goshen neighborhood until 24 hours after the storm had passed. In its immediate aftermath, it was thought that the severe thunderstorm had only produced high straight line winds. It was only after a thorough assessment by the National Weather Service that it was determined that a category F1 tornado had been on the ground for about 20 seconds and that wind speed may have reached 100 miles per hour.

Goshen residents Roger Williams and Charlie Bilby, who reside at 6620 state Route 48, had little doubt in their minds that a tornado had passed over their home.

“We were watching the tornado warnings on the television when the electricity zapped out and the winds started to howl. As we fled to the bathroom to seek shelter, the house started to tremble. We heard the torrential downpour of rain, cracking trees, and what can only be described as screaming. We were very frightened. Then as quickly as it hit, it was gone,” Williams said.

The damage to the landscape was considerable. More than 100 trees surrounding the Marsh property, the Williams property, and the Goshen Township Cemetery on state Route 28 were either uprooted from the ground or snapped in half.

According to Goshen Township Fire Chief Virgil Murphy, the only major property damage was to the home of Todd Lowery, who lives directly behind the Goshen Township Cemetery.

“Incredibly, his house only sustained some storm damaged shingles on the roof,” Murphy said. “The tornado must have been right over his house because there were trees down all around the property.”

A major concern for Goshen Township residents is the fact that the emergency tornado sirens did not start warning residents to seek shelter until 10 minutes after the tornado had touched ground.

“We had no warning. By the time we heard the sirens, it was too late,” said Roger Williams, while inspecting the damage to his property on July 12. “I know that tornado prediction is not an exact science, but this problem needs to be looked at very closely for future situations.”

Chief Murphy said that the Police and Fire Departments are looking into why the warning sirens failed to warn residents.

Gene Marsh, who lives adjacent to his son Gary on state Route 48, said that he was thankful that no one was injured or killed in the storm.

“I think that the sirens did not go off because the storm formed so quickly. When you get to my age, you learn to take these things in stride and accept them,” he said. “My family and my neighbors escaped this twister with their lives. It could have been a lot worse.”