STANHOPE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – As more severe weather threatens western New Jersey, residents are trying to comprehend the damage from last night’s tornado that tore through their neighborhood.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado damaged both Stanhope and Hopatcong, New Jersey.
An EF-1 tornado packs winds of 86-110 miles per hour. It sent trees slamming onto cars and homes.
Homes were taken captive by downed trees. Homeowners told CBS2’s Vaness Murdock all of the sudden the house shook, moved by falling trees.
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From the air, Drone Force 2 surveyed homes ripped apart, power poles tossed to the ground, cars crushed, sheds displaced, kids’ playsets sitting sideways.
“My kids were crying. I was crying. It’s heartbreaking, because you work so hard to get where you’re at in life,” said Hopatcong resident Mary Jean Donnelly. “Then all of a sudden it’s just ripped apart by nature.”
“All of the sudden it got really dark, and the grill moved across the deck,” said 12-year-old Roisin Yosh.
“We just heard trees falling,” 12-year-old Delaney Yosh said. “We were just praying that it wouldn’t hit ours.”
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The twins told Murdock it was their mother’s quick thinking that got them moving to safety.
“I saw the wind whipping so bad. ‘Oh my God, I think this is a tornado.’ Get in that bathroom,” she said.
They showed Murdock their safe zone. Since they have no basement, it was the interior bathroom. It has no windows, and the whole family and their dog Chloe waited their for the storm to pass.
“I got a warning on my phone… once I got that message, the winds just started howling,” said Hopatcong resident Gina Costanza. She warned her parents and ran for the basement.
“I got to here and that’s when you started to hear ‘boom, boom,’ and I just took off,” she said, adding that she hunkered down in her brother’s basement bedroom.
“Covered my ears, because all you hear was ‘boom, boom.’ Basically, it sounded like, you just thought your whole roof was off,” Costanza said.
Thankfully, in the light of day, the damage wasn’t as bad as she thought, but a tree smushed a car and pierced the attic.
“Thank God everyone is OK, my community and my family,” she said.
If you don’t know what to do in a tornado, here are some safety tips. If you have a basement, go there. If not, go to an interior room on the lowest level of your home. Always stay away from windows, and if there’s time grab something like a mattress or blanket to better protect yourself as trees come crashing down and pieces of personal property get transformed into projectiles. Click here for more safety tips.
Downed trees and power lines prompted the closure of Lenape Valley Regional High School. Dozens of students, parents and staff were attending a banquet dinner inside the school when the storm struck.
“We sheltered people in place here until we could establish a safe zone outside. Once we established that there was no danger going on outside the building (and) everything was secure, we evacuated everyone car-by-car, family-by-family until the school was basically empty,” Stanhope Fire Chief Alan Bookspan told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.
Aubrey Carroll captured a crazy scene on her cellphone before taking cover in her family’s basement.
“The transformer that gives us all power blew out, and it was lighting up the sky with greens and blues and it was making weird sounds. The air was all smoky and everything,” she said. “It was very terrifying.”
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Other residents DeAngelis spoke with said they were still trying to take in all the damage.
“One in the house, one across the road that they took down already, it was hanging on wires. This tree is actually my neighbors that came through the fence,” Charlotte Zawacki said.
“I hate to put ‘war zone’ into it, but if you look around and you see all the destruction, that’s exactly what hit here, and I hope it never happens again,” said Tom Yowe.
Drone Force 2 flew over nearby Hopatcong, where one house appeared to have its roof ripped off. Trees snapped and toppled onto homes and cars along Helen Street. Neighbors said it all happened in a matter of seconds.
“It seriously looked like something out of a movie. I looked out of the back of the house, and there were trees coming down. I must have seen three of them fall within five seconds,” Stephen Yosh said. “It all happened within 30 seconds to a minute.”
The quick and mighty storm had Ishmael Ortiz’s car right in its path of destruction.
“I didn’t know if I should start crying or what. It was just crazy,” he said.
Now, the concern is Round 2 tonight, especially with trees already weakened from last night’s storm.