Elmira, N.Y. -- The National Weather Service confirmed Friday an EF1 tornado touched down in Elmira with winds of 105-110 mph.
The state sent assessment crews to Elmira, where significant damage is being reported following a bout of severe weather.
Surveying the damage throughout the City of Elmira most agree it had to be a tornado that struck this Southern Tier community late Thursday afternoon.
At the intersection of Jay and Oak Streets very few trees remain standing and those that do are missing large branches and limbs that now rest on homes, cars, or in the street. It wasn't until Friday afternoon that city maintenance crews were able to partially clear the road for traffic.
"I was just coming out the door and I heard the tree cracking and down it come," said Oak Street resident Mark Ellsworth while pointing to a pile of leafy debris and tree limbs that his wife and children were working to clean up. "Yup, it got in my truck, it got in my motor home… my motorcycle was in there too."
Marlene White stood out front of her Jay Street home Friday afternoon and spoke about how she was unloading her now demolished car after a trip to the store just moments before the tornado hit.
"I no sooner got home and unloaded the car [and] got the clothes put away when it hit,” White said. "It was the worst feeling I ever felt in my life; I thought a freight train went through the building. It sounded like a freight train and I said, ‘Oh No!’ and it was like something I never seen, it was the biggest cloud of dust, debris, and whirling all over, it was horrible.”
Friday morning National Weather Service teams surveyed the damage themselves and some told White they were surprised she was able to ride out the storm from her living room while watching it out her window.
"They said, and where were you standing? And I said in the living room window,” White explained. “And they said no you weren't, I said yes we seen the whole thing and after it was over with I cried.”
From White's Jay Street home you can see perhaps the worst of the storm's damage for two or three blocks in each direction.
Standing at the corner of Oak and Jay Streets, Jessica Ritchie described something she'd never imagined seeing in her hometown.
"I'm speechless. It's just crazy that something like this would happen here,” Ritchie said. "Last summer we had a flood but that wasn't nearly as bad as this, not at all."
Officials say the amazing thing seems to be that despite countless reports of severe damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles, there have been no reports of deaths or even serious injuries.
"It's actually unbelievable,” said Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. “I saw our scaffolding off a building flying down the street. We have houses that have actually collapsed but so far, so far we can't come up with an injury… It's just unbelievable that you could have this type of wind that much stuff moving in the air and so far nobody hurt.”
For the next few days most throughout the county will focus on cleaning up the mess this storm and tornado left behind. Santulli said some 20,000 customers were without power at the height of this weather event.
NYSEG crews hope to have all power restored in the region by Sunday with 75% of customers able to expect power to return by late Saturday.
Local tree service crews are sure to be busy through the next week and Ronnie Clark was among the first to have one arrive at his home on the corner of Lake Street and Fifth Street. He was also one of the many who quickly warned his family the storm was coming after he got an emergency text message on his phone.
"I got a text alert on my phone and it told me that a tornado was in this vicinity and to take shelter immediately so I started calling everybody and saying get in the house, get in the house,” Clark said of the warning he gave his wife and children. "Shortly after, it started raining, it got harder, and then we saw power flashes."
Steuben County also suffered heavy damage from the storm.
According to a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, NYSEG expects to have 50% of customer outages restored tonight and 75% restored Saturday night. The remaining outages are likely to extend into Sunday. In addition to the 45 National Grid crews, NYSEG has 30 crews in route from Ohio to assist in restoring electric customers in Elmira.