A look back in Lyons 15 years after tornado devastated tiny borough

More than 2 dozen homes heavily damaged or destroyed

Posted: 1:39 PM EDT May 31, 2013   Updated: 11:36 PM EDT May 31, 2013
1998 tornado in Lyons #2
LYONS, Pa. -

Fifteen years ago Friday night, the tiny borough of Lyons in Berks County changed forever.

A powerful tornado touched down in the Leesport area around 9 p.m. on May 31, 1998. From there, the twister moved in a diagonal direction across Route 222, cutting a path of destruction through Lyons and Bowers.

"You could hear the wind," said Helen Dries. "It sounded like a train, you know, and I said, 'It's a tornado! Oh my God! What are we going to do."

Hours later, daylight revealed the extent of the devastation. The storm heavily damaged or destroyed more than two dozen homes, tossed vehicles around like toys and uprooted trees.

"[I've] never seen anything like it," said Bryan Ross, who was then the chief of the Northeastern Berks Regional Police Dept., as he described the devastation he saw. "Two-story homes that are basically one-story homes now. The whole side of buildings missing, roofs missing, cars overturned."

Amazingly, through it all, no one was killed or even seriously injured.

The Berks County Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross were among the organizations that mobilized right away, providing help to the dozens of people who were displaced from their homes.

"Initially, it was just like walking through Florida and seeing the same sort of damage and suddenly realizing, 'Wait, we're not in Florida,' and we are literally just a few miles from home," said Adrian Grieve, of the American Red Cross. "It is scary."

WFMZ's Pam Cunningham will have more on the storm anniversary in a live report on 69 News at 5:30.

Images: 15 years since tornado tore path through Lyons

Posted: 12:46 PM EDT May 31, 2013   Updated: 5:32 PM EDT May 31, 2013

A tornado tore through northern Berks County on the night of May 31, 1998, leaving behind a path of destruction from Leesport to Bowers. The borough of Lyons was the hardest hit area.
Story: A look back in Lyons  |  Video: JetChopper 69 view

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Daylight revealed the level of destruction caused by the tornado, which caused the most damage in the tiny borough of Lyons.