An intense tornado that hit New Jersey on Tuesday destroyed the state's largest dairy farm. This same tornado was one among others that thrashed through New Jersey and Pennsylvania during the past week's storm.
"What are we going to do?" was the sentiment of Marianne and Wally Eachus, owners of the Wellacrest Farms in Mullica Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia. The couple had just had their supper when they received weather alerts of the coming EF-3 tornado through their phones.
"The clouds were intense and swift, then there was a sound like a freight train," Marianne recalled. As the couple ran to the basement just in time for the tornado to hit, it only took 3 minutes for the disaster to rip their farm apart.
One of the most intense Tornadoes recorded in New Jersey history
After remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed the entire region, the National Weather Service confirmed at least eight tornadoes and one of them, is the high-end EF-3. The tornado had peak winds of 150 mph, which destroyed at least nine homes in Mullica Hill, New Jersey last week, along Josephine and Marvin lanes early Wednesday evening. Fortunately, no one was killed.
As farm owners Marianne and Wally went out their basement, along with other families in their farmhouse, the completely toppled barns and grains dawned on them. Roofs were ripped off and equipment were demolished, uprooted trees crashing into their old farmhouse.
Hundreds of cows were trapped under collapsed barns. Among them, 13 have died and a couple dozen more suffered injuries. Several cows were swallowed by the funnel and about 100 cows were missing.
Although no other deaths were reported in the dairy farm from the tornado, the historic rain and massive flooding produced by remnants of Ida drenched their farms for hours. Eachus and her family had worked to corral cows back into pens and also received support and help from local businesses fix their electricity, plumbing, and even helped haul away debris.
Somehow, the farm is ultimately coming together and the entire milking operation has returned.
A blessing in disguise
Megan Miller, a family friend and wife of Brandon Miller who works on the farm called the incident a "blessing." When the couple received a phone call from the Eachus family about the tornado that had hit them, they immediately drove and saw the devastation. "I just cried," Megan said.
The Wellacrest Farms, established in 1943 by Wally's parents, was turned over to them 20 years back. Wellacrest produces more than 17 million pounds of milk every year, with 1,400 cows on the property - about half of them are milking cows. They also work with other farmers to share and sell crops.
After the disaster, the village helped rebuild an operation "that has been almost completely diminished in minutes", and were able to raise $60,000 through GoFundMe started by fellow farmer Hillary Stecher.
Eachus and his family remains hopeful despite unfortunate times, and will continue to rebuild what they call home.
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