20 years later: Lyons residents look back on 1998 tornado


It's been 20 years since a tornado tore apart the Berks County borough of Lyons, leaving a path of destruction. Many who remember that day said they haven't seen a storm like that one since and hope they never will.

Devastated homes and overturned cars are what greeted people on the morning after May 31, 1998. Since then, Lyons has been restored to the quiet community LeRoy and Shirley Schaeffer moved to nearly 40 years ago.

"Every once in a while, we still look at the clouds and we still have a little bunker thing down in the cellar, just in case we have to go down," said Shirley.

The Schaeffers said the powerful tornado that ripped through the borough in 1998 sounded like a speeding train. Then, they heard homes being ripped apart. The tornado took their porch and shattered glass while leaving more damage all around them.

"People next to us on the corner, that house was completely destroyed," said LeRoy.

A similar scene played out down the road at the Lighthouse Community Church.

"It was very extensive. If you look at some of the photos, you can see how the roof was torn off," said Pastor Alton Zenter.

The pastor said when the tornado damaged the church, it actually created a bigger opportunity, so now, instead of just the church, it's also school.

"All of the houses around us are new houses or rebuilt houses, so that's what I say, when God closes one door, he opens up some nice, new doors," Zenter said.

The community has blossomed, but those who lived through it said they'll never forget that devastating May night.

"I don't want to go through another one," Shirley said.

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