‘The ceiling caved in on me’: NJ man escapes home after falling tree cuts it in half during storm

New Jersey
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SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. — An investigation into whether a tornado blew across central and northern New Jersey on Sunday has been launched by weather officials and law enforcement.

One man in Scotch Plains, however, said he doesn’t need to be convinced that it was a tornado after his home was split in two by an 8-story-tall oak tree.

George Dubyna, 75, said he is certain that nothing short of a miracle allowed him to escape from his collapsed home alive.

“I was sitting watching TV, and all a sudden, I heard a roar,” Dubyna said.  “It was like a jet taking off right next to the house.”

Not a minute later, Dubyna said his ceiling caved in on him and the tree came down.

“I’m on oxygen, and [I] have medical issues, but believe me, that didn’t hold me back when it was time to get out of there,” Dubyna said on Monday while standing outside of the home on Portland Avenue.

Dubyna’s son, Mark, went back inside the home on Monday to retrieve some of his father’s personal items. The younger Dubyna said he was amazed when he saw inside of his father’s house.

“If it came down any further, it would’ve hit him, or the beams would’ve hit him,” Mark Dubyna said.

He also took photos of what was left of the home’s interior.  

The oak, which was one of three tall trees that fell on or around the home, brought down the beams of the roof and the floor of the attic. Also visible in the photo, underneath all the debris, is what’s left of a chair. That’s where George Dubyna said he was sitting when his home collapsed around him.  

“I think it was a tornado, to make that kind of noise,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it — the noise.” 

A block away from the Dubynas’ home, a large pine tree managed to miss a house as it fell. It landed on a car instead.  

It was all part of a line of storms on Sunday evening that left extensive damage in West Windsor, Neptune, and the Scotch Plains area.  

The storm lifted the roof off of an evacuated hotel in Neptune, but the National Weather Service determined the damage was the result of straight line winds, rather than a tornado.

Still, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said authorities were looking for videos and other evidence to help confirm what happened in Scotch Plains.

The National Weather Service has not yet commented on whether Scotch Plains was hit by a tornado.

Meanwhile, Dubyna said his insurance company informed him that because his home was a total loss, it would replace the entire structure.    

There were no reports of death or serious injuries related to the storm, for which everyone — including Dubyna — is grateful.

“Last week I was in the hospital,” he said.  “I’m a lucky kinda guy, all right? Still here kickin’, right?”

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