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Tornado with winds at least 110 mph hit Smithfield

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
An aerial view of the damage in Smithfield

The National Weather Service officially declared that it was a tornado that struck the town of Smithfield in Madison County, killing four people, destroying four homes and severely damaging three others.

Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley announced that the victims include Kimberly Hillard, 35; her four-month-old baby, Paris Newman; Virginia Warner, 70; and Arnie A.D. Allen, 53.

The weather service is still determining the magnitude of the tornado. The National Weather Services' Barbara Watson, who was on site in Smithfield, says they believe it will be categorized as at least an EF-2, which means its winds were at least 110 miles per hour.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Smithfield to survey the damage, and noted how unusual it is for a tornado to strike upstate New York. 

"We don't get tornadoes in New York, right? Anyone will tell you that. Well, now we do," Cuomo told reporters. [see below for audio of the entire news conference]

"The property damage we can repair," said the governor. "Unfortunately, there is damage that has been done that no one can repair, no one can replace."

The area that was sustained the worse damage was along Goff Road and North Rupp Road in the Smithfield. Riley also said another home in the area was lifted off its foundation, but fortunately its owner was out of town and in Maryland. No one was inside at the time.

Cuomo called the tornado a "wholly random event," noting that a house on one side of the street may have been destroyed, but another on the other side may have been left untouched.

Cuomo said the state would work with the counties and the families to help replace property life, but said that was not the most important thing.

"When there's a loss of human life, nothing else matters. Houses we can replace. When you lose a four-month-old baby, when you lose a family, there's no damage like that."

Full audio of press conference held by Madison County Sheriff Alan Riley, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Barbara Watson with the National Weather Service. Audio courtesy of the governor's office.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.