NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — Some New Jersey residents are trying to dig out and clean up after being caught in the path of ruthless winds Saturday. The National Weather Service confirmed that four tornadoes touched down in Jackson, Howell Township, Sea Girt and Cinnaminson in New Jersey. Crews spent hours surveying the areas in the storm’s path.
“We got the alerts on our smartphones of a tornado possibly touching down in half an hour and I blew it off,” said Kim Silva. “Then it started hailing. We heard this big thump, and when we finally came outside, this tree was down in our front yard. And a tree was through our side window.”
Silva said her terrified family gathered in the kitchen to wait it out, as the forceful wind gusts ripped through her neighborhood and plucked power lines.
Jersey Central Power and Light reported thousands of customers without power in Monmouth County and Ocean County. The emergency management director in Howell has been working nonstop since the storm first blew through the township. Phones at the emergency response center have been ringing off the hook.
“They answered calls for down trees, down power lines, people stuck in their house because they couldn’t get out of the house because of the trees, roofs blown as you can see behind me,” said Victor Cook, the emergency management director in Howell.
On Spicy Pond Road, a family was on the second floor of a house when powerful winds peeled the roof right off, authorities said. They are now staying with relatives, but it may take months before the repairs are complete so they can come back.
John Carswell, a 53-year-old Jackson resident, was home alone on Oaktree Lane when he received the warning on his phone that a possible tornado was headed his way. He headed for his windowless laundry room to wait it out.
“There was more noise from the hail than there was from the actual the wind,” Carswell said. “I didn’t realize that a tree was down until after it passed.”
When it was all over after just ten minutes, Carswell saw toppled trees had pulled down power lines for the whole neighborhood. Neighbors’ sheds had been ripped apart. The whole area is still without power Sunday night.
Authorities in New Jersey declared disaster emergencies on a local level. They are hopeful the federal government will provide resources. President Joe Biden said in a statement that he approved an expedited major disaster declaration for other parts of the country which were also slammed by storms, including Arkansas, Indiana and Delaware, where FEMA will assist in recovery and rebuilding efforts.
“It could’ve been terrible. I don’t even want to think about that,” said Silva.
Officials in New Jersey say the early warnings and preparation made all the difference. No injuries have been reported.
“We had the resources available. We’ve had people in place. We planned for this. We did what we had to do and we will recover from this,” said Cook.
The local senior center in Howell is open for any displaced families who need shelter. Very few families took advantage of it on Saturday, but the numbers could go up because restoring power could take a while.