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Tornado leaves 'disaster' in its path

Bob Hohenberger surveys damage to his home and

Bob Hohenberger surveys damage to his home and vehicles on Feuereisen Avenue in Bohemia. (Aug. 10, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

A fast-moving tornado touched down Friday afternoon in central Suffolk County, creating the most havoc in Bohemia, where trees were thrown into power lines, homes and cars, the National Weather Service said.

The twister stayed on the ground for about eight minutes, covering 4 1/2 miles, said meteorologist Dan Hofmann at the Upton-based service.

At 2:06 p.m., the tornado touched down in Great River, then spun north, into Connetquot River State Park, Bohemia and Ronkonkoma. Suffolk police said no injuries were reported.

Hofmann said that for a tornado, the time on the ground was unusually long.

"A lot of times when you get tornadoes spin up on Long Island, they are relatively brief," he said. "It was mostly tree damage, luckily."

Bohemia resident Tom Diemidio said it was just a "normal summer storm" when his daughter called to tell him about the tornado warning. When he looked outside, the wind-whipped rain was moving sideways.

"I yelled to my two kids to go to the basement and by that time, it was gone," said Diemidio, 47. "It was kind of scary."

The twister was given the lowest grade on the tornado scale because of its 65 mph to 85 mph winds. The last time a tornado hit the Island was last August, with Tropical Storm Irene, the weather service said.

"I never expected something like this," said Barbara Yager, who lives on Ronkonkoma's Feuereisen Avenue, one of the hardest-hit streets. "These things don't happen on Long Island. Kansas and the Midwest maybe."

Islip Town crews were out Friday night clearing roads as workers with the Long Island Power Authority cut and lifted tree limbs off power lines. Shortly before 3 p.m., LIPA had 2,511 power outages in Suffolk and 1,487 in Nassau. By 8:45 p.m., it was down to 100, the utility said.

Flash floods were reported in several areas as 1 to 2 inches of rain fell in eastern Nassau and western Suffolk, weather officials said.

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci toured the path of the tornado Friday night and said he saw 200-year-old spruces uprooted. "It's definitely a weather disaster," he said. With Patricia Kitchen

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