OPDYKE — One year ago today, tragedy struck Jefferson County when an EF 2 tornado swept through the southeast part of the county.
The tornado touched down at approximately 1:26 p.m. on March 23 in an area northeast of Opdyke. Pat Brown, 60, of Opdyke, was killed in the tornado when the family’s double-wide mobile home was lifted and tossed 100 feet feet across Lynchburg Road and destroyed. One home had windows blown out on the second story and siding damage. One barn was heavily damaged, and a few tree tops were snapped or trees uprooted. Power lines were also downed by the tornado, which reached wind speeds from 110 to 135 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
One landmark spared by the storm was a small Amish school, only about 500 yards north of the Brown residence.
“We saw the funnel cloud come across the field here and it really didn’t look a funnel. It looked more like a whirly-twirly, spinning water coming through a ditch down here,” explained teacher Cristy Byler. “We didn’t see it come across this half-acre field about 200 yards away that some of the neighbors had seen. We just went inside the schoolhouse and hoped for the best.”
Byler said it was very calm inside the schoolhouse, and then it turned windy, and a small buggy turned over.
“About that time, I saw Jack’s (Brown) house go and it passed about 90 yards west of the schoolhouse. It took everything completely across the road on top of neighbor Omar Hoffstettler’s greenhouse,” he said. “The children were all very much in anxiety and crying, and there was no trying to diffuse them, which was very understandable. I just turned around and said, ‘Let’s see how it looks’ and the sight we saw looking out the door here was something I hope I never see again.”