Two people are recovering from injuries after the National Weather Service says a tornado touched down near Painter Road in Middlebury shortly before 2:00 p.m. Friday. Both victims were released from the hospital later in the afternoon.
The tornado designation is preliminary and may be changed, pending a further review from the NWS. An EF-1 tornado, which is what meteorologists say blew through Middlebury, is relatively weak — but still strong enough to leave plenty of damage.
“I was lucky,” Ernest Malzac said. “I had just talked about with one of my friends yesterday, saying ‘boy, I’m glad I don’t live in the South to go through these tornadoes’, and here I am today — went through another one.”
Malzac was watching television when winds whipped up that have been estimated at up to 110 miles per hour. He told us the entire incident was over in about 30 seconds.
“I see my trees out front that started leaning pretty bad, then I watched that great big pine tree go down, and then I hear a bang just before that,” he said.
That loud ‘bang’ was the outer pane of Malzac’s picture window being smashed by a barrel. It had been out behind the garage, more than 50 yards away.
“I was all right, but the cat was kinda laying right there in sight of me, and man, he — he sensed that thunderous noise first, and bam! He was gone down to the cellar before I knew it,” Malzac said. “I haven’t seen him since!”
Across the road and one house down, two people weren’t as fortunate. Besides being injured, their garage and their car were destroyed. Their home is still standing, but it’s uninhabitable.
Malzac’s house, and several more in the vicinity, were still in the dark Friday night. The preliminary tornado was on the ground for about a mile. At its widest point, the winds carved out a path 75 yards across.
“They took out probably six or eight utility poles down through here and several different trees in this isolated area right through here,” Middlebury Fire Chief David Shaw said. “The oddity is that the gentleman behind here — his house is unscathed. It’s less than a couple of thousand feet away.”
A portion of Painter Road was still closed to traffic late Friday night, and it wasn’t clear when it might re-open. Crews were still working to clear downed trees and power lines.