Tornado in dense LI residential area leaves damage, but also relief it wasn’t worse

RONKONKOMA, NY — A tornado shut down part of Ronkonkoma, knocking down trees and power lines, and leaving a path of debris in its wake. Still, residents said they had much to be thankful for in spite of the storm.

The tornado, which registered as an EF-Zero, the lowest level of tornado in terms of wind speed and damage, traveled 400 yards, over a width of 200 yards, according to the National Weather Service. The damage was notable because that destruction path was in the middle of a dense residential neighborhood with many tall and older trees.

"We are living here 51 years and it's never, [we] never saw anything like this. Never," said resident Pat Eberle.

Around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, residents said, an intense rain storm suddenly became quiet for an instant, followed by a sound few people ever have to hear in person, fortunately, but which is often described the same way.

"Kind of like a freight train," said Keith Martin, a neighborhood resident whose description was echoed by another of his neighbors, Alana Klages.

"Like a freight train had come through the neighborhood," she said.

Eberl, however, described something much more intense.

"It sounded like bombs hitting my house," she told PIX11 News. "It sounded like there was a jet plane in the room with me, flying around."

Dave Kenaugh's home, on the corner of Mohican and Seneca Streets, may have suffered the most damage in this community. He'd had five trees in his backyard. All of them were blown down, along with his fence. His property suffered other minor damage. He told PIX11 News that his roof might have collapsed and his three cars may have been totaled if one of the trees had fallen even a foot farther on either side than it had.

His trees were among dozens in the neighborhood whose branches showed clear signs of having been sheared off. It's a strong indicator of a tornado, for which investigators from the National Weather Service look.

They found it over and over again in this Ronkonkoma neighborhood about a half-mile west of Lake Ronkonkoma. However, it's what inspectors did not find that's left residents relieved.

Klages said that she'd had a conversation with the NWS investigator who'd come out to inspect.

"He said it was a small tornado," she told PIX11 News. "I said, 'What's the difference?'" she continued. "He said [a higher intensity tornado] would be catastrophic," she added, "and I said, 'Thank God it wasn't that.'"

No injuries were reported from the tornado.