By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY Despite dire predictions and even a tornado warning, Sullivan County awoke Friday morning to find only scattered damage and power outages from a line of severe thunderstorms the night before.
On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo had sent out an unusual plea to residents to beware of the coming storms, and forecasters warned that the squall line could include isolated tornadoes.
Upstate Elmira did indeed get hit with a tornado, and for a time, there was fear that Sullivan County would be next, with a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service Thursday evening.
The line of storms blasted through the county around 6 p.m., leaving downed limbs and wires behind but no tornado.
Several locales did get hit with straight-line winds topping 70 miles an hour, including Cochecton, Lake Huntington, Bethel, Wurtsboro and Bloomingburg.
The Monticello Police Department suffered a direct lightning strike, briefly knocking out its phone system and reportedly setting its dispatch radio afire.
But by midday Friday, much of the damage was cleaned up, and NYSEG, Central Hudson and Orange & Rockland crews were at work on snapped poles and wires.
One crew supervisor said the local damage was typical of severe summer thunderstorms, and by the end of the day, most of the approximately 4,000 affected homes and businesses had their power restored.
A series of storms over the weekend, however, kept crews busy, as gusty winds, heavy rain and lightning continued to cause sporadic outages countywide.
A direct lightning strike on a NYSEG substation serving the Swan Lake vicinity kept around 400 people in the dark through Sunday, said Bethel Town Supervisor Dan Sturm.
That compelled NYSEG to provide bottled water and dry ice Sunday at the Swan Lake Firehouse, but by yesterday, electricity had been restored.
Sturm praised NYSEG, town employees and local firefighters for their efforts in clearing debris and restoring services.
“I’m always amazed at how good a job they do in hard times,” he remarked.