LIMERICK — Twenty years have passed since a devastating tornado swept through Limerick, killing three people and injuring 25.
The tornado touched down on July 27, 1994, missing the Limerick nuclear power plant but striking a housing development in the township known as The Hamlet.
Houses that weren’t leveled had windows shattered, roofs broken, even entire walls missing. The 150-mph winds that ripped through the area were so strong they lifted a police patrol car 12 inches off the ground, according to reports published in The Mercury.
Trees were uprooted. Cars were flipped. Second-floor bathrooms had their contents spilled across neighbor’s yards. Nothing could escape as the tornado picked up and threw anything with impunity.
After the storm passed, 15 new homes were leveled and 15 more were damaged in the tornado’s destructive path. Property damage was estimated in the millions.
A 10-month-old baby and her parents, Daniel and Laura Thompson, were killed by the twister.
But there was some good news to come amid the devastation. While a young couple, Mike and Karen Finlan, were sleeping in their second floor bedroom, their baby was ripped from its nursery in the adjacent room. Their child, Michael Finlan, landed on the lawn, bleeding, but somehow still alive, with a broken leg and a few ugly gashes on its head. After a few days in Phoenixville Hospital, the 5-month-old child was listed in satisfactory condition, according to reports published in The Mercury.
Joseph Richie, another resident of The Hamlet, was sleeping with his wife when the storm tore him out of his bedroom. Richie miraculously landed in his neighbor’s garden, suffering only a bruised lung and contusions to his back and neck muscles.
His wife, Jean Richie, was thought to have been tossed into her own yard by the tornado. The two were franticly trying to find each other once they regained consciousness outside, but they didn’t get a chance to meet until they were both placed in the same rescue vehicle to the hospital, according to reports at the time.
After the damage, Hamlet residents tackled the enormous task of clearing the debris away and picking up the pieces of their lives that the tornado had broken apart.
But they did it. Cars were towed away, trees were cut and removed, and houses were pushed back up. Victims got their bearings back at a relief center across town.
Since that time, Limerick hasn’t experienced a natural disaster as devastating as the one that crashed through the area that Wednesday night. But even though the damage at the time seemed overwhelming, the community came together to rebuild what was lost.