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A look back in Lyons 15 years after tornado devastated tiny borough

Published On: May 31 2013 01:39:14 PM EDT   Updated On: May 31 2013 11:36:49 PM EDT

People in Lyons know what it's like to live through a tornado.  15 years ago a twister cut a path through part of Northern Berks County.

LYONS, Pa. -

Fifteen years ago Friday night, the tiny borough of Lyons in Berks County changed forever.

A powerful tornado touched down in the Leesport area around 9 p.m. on May 31, 1998. From there, the twister moved in a diagonal direction across Route 222, cutting a path of destruction through Lyons and Bowers.

"You could hear the wind," said Helen Dries. "It sounded like a train, you know, and I said, 'It's a tornado! Oh my God! What are we going to do."


Hours later, daylight revealed the extent of the devastation. The storm heavily damaged or destroyed more than two dozen homes, tossed vehicles around like toys and uprooted trees.

"[I've] never seen anything like it," said Bryan Ross, who was then the chief of the Northeastern Berks Regional Police Dept., as he described the devastation he saw. "Two-story homes that are basically one-story homes now. The whole side of buildings missing, roofs missing, cars overturned."

Amazingly, through it all, no one was killed or even seriously injured.

The Berks County Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross were among the organizations that mobilized right away, providing help to the dozens of people who were displaced from their homes.

"Initially, it was just like walking through Florida and seeing the same sort of damage and suddenly realizing, 'Wait, we're not in Florida,' and we are literally just a few miles from home," said Adrian Grieve, of the American Red Cross. "It is scary."

WFMZ's Pam Cunningham will have more on the storm anniversary in a live report on 69 News at 5:30.