'Like a bomb': 2 tornadoes destroy buildings and injure 5 people in eastern Pennsylvania

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BENSALEM, Pa. — Two destructive tornadoes tore through eastern Pennsylvania in just over an hour's time Thursday night, ripping through a mobile home park, destroying buildings at an auto dealership and leaving those who witnessed the fast-moving storms in disbelief.

Five people were hurt, but officials in Bucks County said there were no deaths or life-threatening injuries. Thursday night, officials were still assessing the damage and did not know how many residents had been displaced or how many homes and businesses were seriously damaged beyond the car dealership.

"This was a devastating tornado that came through the [dealership] area, looked like a TV show. It looked like a bomb went off," said Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran of the second tornado. "It's just gone."

"I have been doing this for 34 years, I haven't seen that sort of devastation from a storm."

Severe weather, including a spree of thunderstorms and tornadoes, wreaked havoc in various states this week. In Wisconsin, at least four tornadoes touched down Thursday morning, causing widespread damage. New Jersey and Ohio experienced tornado warnings and weather damage Thursday as a result of the same weather pattern that led to the tornadoes in Pennsylvania.

A Faulkner Auto Group service center was heavily damaged by storms and a possible tornado on Thursday, July 29, 2021.
A Faulkner Auto Group service center was heavily damaged by storms and a possible tornado on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

Bensalem police and first responders converged at the auto dealerships and a nearby mobile home park within minutes of the touchdown. There was also damage at the nearby Lowe's and Walmart stores.

Crews from local fire companies worked through the debris to enter the partially collapsed dealership and said later they cleared the building, and all people were accounted for.

Outside, the ground was covered with shattered glass and building insulation.

Dealership employee Anthony Perez said a weather alert sounded on his phone "seconds" before the building where he was working was hit. Harrowing video shows the moment the wind tore into the building.

"At that point, we were looking for shelter," he said. "Everything was in a flash."

Harran said four of the five injured were at the dealership. The fifth was at a nearby business. None were critically injured.

Harran also said the tornado was the third major storm to hit Bensalem in 15 days, including a 100-year-flood that displaced residents on July 12.

A Faulkner Auto Group service center was heavily damaged by storms and a possible tornado on Thursday, July 29, 2021.
A Faulkner Auto Group service center was heavily damaged by storms and a possible tornado on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

In Bensalem, a Walmart customer said he could hear the storm ripping through the area.

“I was inside. I could hear like, animals jumping on the roof. The lights went on and off. People were scared and crying,” said Cesar Vanegas of Philadelphia, who saw the roof leaking.

Outside, as Walmart employees cleared bundles of hay and other debris strewn through the parking lot, one employee said baseball-sized hail broke an employee's car window.

Nearby, the vinyl fence protecting a mobile home park was ripped from the ground and strewn across the highway with some fence pieces landing on the opposite side of the road.

Debbie and Steve Smith found an exit sign for the Pennsylvania Turnpike in their backyard, along with pieces of what they believe were parts of the roofs of nearby buildings.

A felled tree blocks Aquetong Road in Solebury Thursday evening after a tornado ripped through the area. The road was blocked off to traffic between Mechanicsville Road and State Route 263 as emergency workers dealt with the storm.
A felled tree blocks Aquetong Road in Solebury Thursday evening after a tornado ripped through the area. The road was blocked off to traffic between Mechanicsville Road and State Route 263 as emergency workers dealt with the storm.

In the aftermath of the tornado, police and utility workers lined Ridgeview Road where the storm battered a section of the township near Solebury. Trees closed several roads and knocked down power lines.

A trampoline lays next to an RV in the driveway of a home in Plumstead on Thursday, July 29, 2021.
A trampoline lays next to an RV in the driveway of a home in Plumstead on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

Reporters Christopher Dornblaser, Hira Qureshi and Chris Ullery contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bucks County, Pennsylvania, tornadoes rip through buildings; 5 injured

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