Powerful EF-3 tornado rips through Bensalem Township, leaving widespread damage behind
BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. - Officials in Bensalem say at least six people were hurt when a tornado ripped through Bucks County on Thursday night leaving a wake of destruction that includes a decimated car dealership and several destroyed homes.
Bensalem Township Director of Public Safety Fred Harran added one additional injury to a count that originally stood at five. Harran said the overnight injury was reported at a mobile home park.
Harran said the tornado made landfall at 7:13 p.m. in the northeastern part of the county and tore across Bensalem where flying debris caused damage to local businesses. The National Weather Service confirmed Friday that an EF-3 tornado touched down with peak winds up to 140 mph. This is the first EF-3 in Pennsylvania since July 17, 2004, when a tornado hit Lebanon County.
The tornado streaked across the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Street Road and flipped cars along the way, according to Harran. The most significant damage happened at Faulkner Buick-GMC dealership where the tornado reduced many of the buildings to rubble. The dealership released a statement Friday morning:
"Our first priority is tending to our employees and our customers to ensure their safety and well-being. While we ensure our Faulkner family is safe, we are taking measures to ensure the immediate safety, security and clean-up efforts of the dealership campus. We would like to thank all of the first responders who have been so helpful. We truly appreciate the outpouring of support and concern from our community. We will overcome this, repair all damage and return to serving our community as quickly as possible."
The tornado completely destroyed homes in Weiss Trailer Park and Penn Valley Trailer Park near Old Lincoln Highway. FOX 29's Steve Keeley spoke to one resident who said he huddled in a bathroom with his 5-year-old son, father and grandfather as the storm shredded their home.
Harran said the tornado lost some intensity as it continued past Neshaminy Mall and a residential neighborhood in Belmont Hills. Reports were limited to tossed trampolines and torn siding, according to emergency responders.
"I've been doing this for 34 years and it's the first time I've ever seen that kind of devastation up close and personal," Harran said.
Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo, a native of the township, echoed Harran sentiment about the unprecedented nature of the tornado. The mayor authorized a Disaster Declaration for needed storm relief funding.
The National Weather Service confirmed at least two tornadoes in Bucks County and later verified that two twisters touched down in the Barnegat section of Ocean County with winds over 100 mph. One tornado was an EF-2 with peak winds of 115 mph.
Late Friday, the weather service found that two tornadoes touched down in Mercer County and an EF-0 hit Northeast Philadelphia.
Harran urged people to stay clear of the damage as county crews and utility workers clean-up debris and fix downed wires. He said residential neighborhoods and trailer parks can expect power by midnight.
Limited street closures remain in place due to debris in the roadway, including Street Road near Old Lincoln Highway. The Red Cross is helping people displaced by the storm find shelter.
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