BENSALEM, Pa .– Two destructive tornadoes ravaged eastern Pennsylvania in just over an hour Thursday night, tearing apart a mobile home park, destroying buildings at an auto dealership and leaving those who witnessed the storms swift in disbelief.
Five people were injured, but Bucks County officials said there were no fatalities or life-threatening injuries. As of Thursday evening, officials were still assessing the damage and were unsure how many residents had been displaced or how many homes and businesses had been severely damaged beyond the car dealership.
“It was a devastating tornado that swept through the [dealership] area, looked like a TV show. It looked like a bomb had gone off, “Bensalem public safety director Fred Harran said of the second tornado.” It’s just gone. “
“I’ve been doing this for 34 years, haven’t seen this kind of devastation from a storm.”
Severe weather, including a wave of thunderstorms and tornadoes, wreaked havoc in various states this week. In Wisconsin, at least four tornadoes hit Thursday morning, causing extensive damage. New Jersey and Ohio experienced tornado warnings and weather damage Thursday due to the same weather pattern that led to the tornadoes in Pennsylvania.
Bensalem police and first responders converged on car dealerships and a nearby mobile home park minutes after landing. There was also damage to nearby Lowe’s and Walmart stores.
Local fire crews walked through the debris into the partially collapsed concession and later said they had cleared the building and all people were found.
Outside, the floor was covered with broken glass and building insulation.
Dealership worker Anthony Perez said a weather alert sounded on his phone “seconds” before the building where he worked was hit. A poignant video shows the moment the wind entered the building.
“At that time, we were looking for shelter,” he said. “Everything was in a flash.”
Harran said four of the five injured were at the dealership. The fifth was in a neighboring store. None were seriously injured.
Harran also said the tornado was the third major storm to hit Bensalem in 15 days, including a 100-year flood that displaced residents on July 12.
In Bensalem, a Walmart customer said he could hear the storm ravaging the area.
“I was inside. I heard like animals jumping on the roof. The lights were on and off. People were scared and crying, ”said Cesar Vanegas of Philadelphia, who saw the roof leak.
Outside, as Walmart workers cleared hay bales and other debris strewn across the parking lot, an employee said a baseball-sized hail shattered the car window of an employee.
Nearby, the vinyl fence protecting a mobile home park was ripped from the ground and strewn across the road with pieces of fence landing on the other side of the road.
Debbie and Steve Smith found an exit sign for the Pennsylvania Toll Freeway in their backyard, along with pieces of what they believe were parts of the roofs of neighboring buildings.
In the aftermath of the tornado, police and utility workers lined Ridgeview Road, where the storm hit a section of the township near Solebury. Trees closed several roads and knocked down power lines.
Reporters Christopher Dornblaser, Hira Qureshi and Chris Ullery contributed to this report.