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Intense winds leave path of destruction as trees topple around Northwood Lake

Union Leader Correspondent

July 11. 2018 5:28PM
Ellen Joy checks out the damage to her vehicle and lake house after a powerful downburst hit Northwood Lake Tuesday night. (Jason Schreiber)

Linda Stiles Muntz says she’s never been as traumatized as she was when a downburst struck Northwood Lake and uprooted numerous trees that damaged her deck and cabana. (Jason Schreiber)

DEERFIELD — Dave and Ellen Joy are lucky to be alive.

As seasonal residents with a home on Northwood Lake, the Joys have come to expect wild summer storms.

Ten years ago this month a tornado ripped through the area, killing one person and carving a path through woods for 50 miles.

While the tornado missed the Joys’ place that’s been in the family since 1956, they weren’t so lucky Tuesday when they took a direct hit from a violent thunderstorm with a downburst of wind that blew across the lake in a way many said they’ve never seen before.

Residents who have lived on the lake year-round for many years or, like the Joys, have spent summers there for decades said it looked more like an angry ocean. The waves, they said, were the biggest they could remember.

The Joys took shelter in the porch as the storm approached, they thought it would be no worse than any others they’ve experienced on the lake. They were wrong.

Sheets of rain and powerful winds estimated at 70 mph pummeled their side of the lake.

Ellen Joy took out her phone and began to record the storm until a massive tree along the water’s edge uprooted and crashed onto the porch, sending shards of glass into her arms and legs.

“When we were on the porch I was extremely frightened. We were frightened for each other. I was almost in shock,” she said as she walked the property to assess damage Wednesday morning. Several trees toppled and landed on their home and Kia Sorento parked in the yard.

The ferocious winds uprooted and snapped dozens of trees, caused structural damage to homes and left piles of debris on roads and properties.

Tree-cutting crews and utility workers Wednesday were busy clearing the downed trees and repairing poles and power lines taken out by the storm.

The sudden downburst was caused by a severe thunderstorm that moved through the area early Tuesday evening.

Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, described a downburst as straight line winds of 60 to 70 mph. He said the storm that hit Northwood Lake was isolated. However, other areas, including Loudon, also experienced tree damage from wind and large hail.

Linda Stiles Muntz lives in Georgia but spends her summers at the lake house that her parents bought in 1954. It was surrounded by fallen trees that destroyed a cabana and their deck leading to a swimming area along the lake.

“I have been through hurricanes and tornadoes in south Georgia and I have never been as traumatized emotionally as I was for 20 minutes yesterday,” she said.

She was relieved that no one was seriously hurt.

“You can’t replace people,” Stiles Muntz said.

Florida residents Bob and Jean Greenleaf have a seasonal lake house next to the Joys and scrambled to close windows as the storm arrived. He said the rain and wind came fast and then they heard a thump as a tree hit the roof of their place, which Jean’s father built in 1952.

The Greenleafs said they won’t know the extent of the damage until the tree is removed.

“There are holes in the roof. The chimney’s cracked,” Bob said.

Barry Bennett heard a thump at his house, too.

“It was just a sudden burst of wind and the lake had white caps the height of which we’ve never seen before,” he said. A tree hit the house and minutes later he noticed numerous trees were on the ground.

Gerry Hennessey’s house was damaged in the tornado in 2008, but it was later sold and he bought a new place on another part of the lake. The storm blew down 15 to 20 trees on his property this time around.

“Now we’re doing this all over again. We’ve had a lot of weird storms on this lake,” he said.

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