Ajit Kolethe and his family had just returned to his in-laws’ home on Woodlawn Avenue in Niagara Falls on Friday night, when the strong winds and heavy rains hit at about 9:30 p.m., knocking out power to the home.
“After the lights went out, maybe a few seconds later, we heard a big thud,” the 40-year-old Kolethe recalled Saturday afternoon. “We opened the door, looked outside and saw the fallen tree.”
What they could barely see was their Mazda 3, covered by a tree limb, branches and leaves that flattened the vehicle’s roof and sliced through the back windshield.
That smashed car was one of many victims of the violent overnight storm late Friday and early Saturday that dumped more than 4 inches of rain in some parts, leaving more than 23,000 customers without electric power in Niagara and Erie counties.
Niagara County proved to be the bull’s-eye for the violent storm.
Shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, National Grid reported 17,345 customers without power in Niagara County and another 5,966 customers in Erie County. By late afternoon Saturday, the two-county total had dipped below 10,000.
On Saturday afternoon, a ride through southern and western Niagara County yielded the sights and sounds of power saws cutting through tree limbs, leafy branches being hauled out to the curb and a few downed power lines hanging in the air.
Niagara County clearly was hit the hardest, with the National Weather Service listing unofficial rain totals of 4.5 inches in Pendleton, 4.3 in North Tonawanda, 4.0 at the Niagara Falls International Airport and 2.6 inches in Lockport during a 24-hour period that ended at about 8 a.m. Saturday.
Further south, weather spotters reported 2.2 inches in Tonawanda and 2.0 inches in Depew, while the official mark was 1.77 inches at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
All that rain could have caused some substantial flooding, if the ground hadn’t been so dry.
“It was a fairly substantial storm, over 4 inches of rain in a 6- to 8-hour period,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Kelly said. “We were fortunate that the ground was dry and could absorb a lot of it. If the ground had been saturated, the flooding could have been worse.”