Holyoke and Amherst sight funnel clouds Friday evening; Haxtun and Paoli sirens sound Saturday
Phillips County put the tornado sirens to the test Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16, as multiple funnel clouds were sighted, but no known tornado touch-downs were recorded.
Strong wind or possible microburst destruction was reported in the southeast part of Holyoke, with the most significant being the roof of the old bus garage that was peeled off the building on the southwest corner of the football field.
Storm activity was in the air early Friday evening, May 15, when marble-sized and larger hail pelted Holyoke around 6:20 p.m.
Police Chief Doug Bergstrom said he and his staff were out watching the storm, as the area was put under a tornado warning by the National Weather Service.
Amherst resident Sharon Greenman said the funnel clouds just north of her home, over the community park in Amherst, were “way too close for our liking.” She added that the funnel activity was one of the most scary things they’ve dealt with in the 18 years that they’ve lived in Amherst.
Eerie funnel clouds hover over the north edge of Amherst Friday evening, May 15, about 6:30 p.m., just before funnel clouds were also sighted near Holyoke. No known reports of tornado touch-downs were recorded in the weekend storm activity.
About 6:30 p.m. Friday, the Greenmans sighted the black funnel clouds and watched their eerie rotation. Sharon said the clouds would move, then stall, move, then stall for probably a good 15 minutes. While none of the clouds touched down, Greenman said they certainly had the potential. “It was scary,” she added.
Holyoke’s tornado siren sounded at 6:50 p.m. when Bergstrom said a funnel cloud was sighted one mile north of town. Another police officer was on the west edge of town, and a funnel cloud above town was seen there as well.
Bergstrom said that as far as he knows, none of the funnels touched down. In addition to the school’s old bus garage/maintenance building roof, a street sign in that vicinity was pulled off the pole.
Part of a tree fell on the east side of town, said Bergstrom, and a 6-8-inch-diameter limb was lost in a yard on East Johnson Street on the south side of town.
Holyoke’s tornado all-clear siren sounded at 7:22 p.m., 32 minutes after the “take cover” siren was activated.
Saturday afternoon, May 16, at 12:38 p.m., the Haxtun and Paoli tornado sirens were activated due to funnel clouds south and west of Haxtun.
All-clear sirens sounded about an hour later as the tornado threat passed.
Residents are cautioned to heed the sirens in such cases of severe weather activity.
Holyoke school maintenance personnel Dusty McConnell and Stan Kreider (in utility vehicle) assess the damage Friday evening, May 15, when the roof blew off the old bus garage and onto the track and football field on the southwest corner of the school lot.
Holyoke Enterprise May 21, 2015