October 15, 1989: Amazing Winds in Ithaca

Today was the last day, I believe as I write this eighteen years later, of a long weekend “camping” trip to Cayuga Lake with the Brick Presbyterian youth group from Perry, New York.  After all of these years I remember very little about this day in particular although I do still remember the camping trip itself and the boy scout cabin that we stayed in.

This camping trip was the first time that I got to visit the city of Ithaca where I would later live and my first time boating (canoing in this case) on the water of Cayuga Lake which would later be a major location in my life.  I believe that it was this morning in particular that Nathan Parker and I did some canoing out on the lake.

This evening the whole youth group, bundled into several cars, and drove through the city of Ithaca.  I have no idea what the idea for the trip was for.  But we were in the city when high wind warning too effect and the place became increasingly dangerous.  I was only thirteen but I remember the people driving the cars becoming very worried as the winds got going so fast that they couldn’t control the vehicles anymore.

It was one of the windiest days that I have ever seen.  The sky was so dark and the wind was fierce.  Some of the kids rolled down the windows of the Dodge Omni that I was riding in being driven by Earl Hobbs, my friend Amy’s father, and debris from the storm was shooting straight through the car!  I have never seen anything like it since.

We took shelter at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.  Our youth group leaders, the Stoddards, had both graduated from Cornell and knew Ithaca and the campus well.  So we went inside and got a tour whilst we awaited the storms departure.  We got to see the grotesque museum of animals that had died with massive deformities and mutations.  Horrible, horrible accidents of nature or scientific experiment.  Really sick stuff.  It still bothers me eighteen years later.

Years later I found the New York Times report on the high wind storm that hit Upstate New York this day.  At the time the tornado was not confirmed or denied but being investigated.