NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — At least five people were killed during a bout of severe weather that socked the Tri-State Area on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a State of Emergency remained in effect in four New York counties with almost 50,000 still without power. The National Weather Service confirmed at least three tornadoes touched down, two of them in Putnam County in Kent and Paterson.
The third was in Orange County, in the City of Newburgh where the storm unleashed some of its worst damage. The cleanup has been all about the trees, some of which still block major roadways throughout the area.
Another tree that came crashing down in nearby New Windsor caused some scary moments for one driver.
“I never even saw a leaf,” Marine Master Sergeant Griggsby Cowart said. “I must have plowed right through it and kept going.”
Cowart drove home in his smashed up truck Tuesday night after a tree uprooted by the storm toppled over as he was driving by.
“It was a pretty violent crash,” he said.
With the rain pounding and the wind howling, he believed he was being chased by one of mother nature’s most powerful forces.
“Sideways downpours, debris, wind, I thought for sure there was a tornado barking at my back door,” Cowart said.
Just a bit further north, the NWS confirmed an EF0 tornado hit the Newburgh area leaving behind piles of debris, downed wires, and uprooted trees.
Winds reached 85 miles per hour.
In Sullivan County, the winds were just as brutal. CBS2 Weather Watcher Charlie Hoffman became trapped in his car when trees snapped and brought down power lines all around him.
“I’m gonna… I’m gonna die here. I’m gonna die here because all it has to do is catch on fire, and I’m done. I’m done,” he said.
He was rescued three hours later.
Cowart’s near miss buckled the roof of his truck just inches from his head. It was a close call after his family experienced tragedy just last year, after the squadron he belongs to lost a C130 transport plane when it exploded midair in Mississippi.
Nine of the 16 killed were based Upstate.
“It’s been a very hard year taking care of the children that are left behind, and the spouses that are left behind,” Cowart said.
Cowart’s wife, Katie, believes those same fellow Marines are now her husband’s guardian angels.
“Just from my heart I believe that those guys were pushing his truck out of the way,” she said, adding that when he got home she hugged him and wouldn’t let go.
Residents were still dealing with widespread power outages late Wednesday. Officials are hoping to have power restored in Orange County by early Thursday, while parts of Sullivan County may not have power restored until Sunday afternoon.