Pa. farm recovers after not one, but two disasters
WEST CHESTER, Pa. — “We should be dead,” Dana Pound says of the damage inflicted by an EF-2 tornado that struck their Newton Square, Pa., horse farm on Oct. 31, 2019.
There had been no advance warning. But at about 11:50 p.m., as Dana was reading in the living room, everything first went dark. The house’s picture windows bowed in, then cracked. She ran to awaken her husband, Larry Barry, who sleeps with earplugs. The house began to shake, and a loud piercing sound like a freight train came roaring through. Suddenly it was all over.
Dana and Larry walked outside and gasped at the devastation. Both the front and back of the house was damaged, parts of the roof were torn off, and the gutters and fencing attached to the house were gone. The 100-foot-by-100-foot kennel fencing for the dogs and dog houses were no longer there.
As the couple walked in the driveway, the first tornado warning came on their cell phones. Walking into the street, a pile of trees, 20-feet high and twice as wide, looked like pick-up sticks. Tree leaves completely covered the windows. That explained the early darkness.
Dana estimates the number of trees lost to be in the hundreds. Her favorite old sycamore split in half. The oaks, tulip poplar and planted dogwood were ripped out and disappeared. All the landscaping was wrecked, even the vegetable garden.
Torn bags of shavings by the old stone bank barn were scattered everywhere. The doors and windows of both horse trailers had been shut, now they were blown out. Jumps, patio furniture, a car, other equipment, and a pallet of 80 bags of shavings were destroyed. Evidence of the wind force was apparent. Lots of their possessions turned up a quarter-mile away.
It was days before anyone could even get to the farm.
“Then they just started showing up,” Pound said. “It was just amazing. … Kids I had taught, now adults, came back to work. All my boarders, extended family and people that saw it on TV came.”
Downed trees were cut, debris cleared, fencing fixed, patched or replaced. Fencing from other areas was scabbed to make pastures secure. Pound’s son’s Carpenters Union buddies came, and even brought their wives and girlfriends to help. “It was inspiring,” she says.
Since the power was lost for about ten days, the family camped and cooked three meals a day on the grill. Pound’s brother and a friend contributed a generator which provided lights and a refrigerator.
Happily, the twenty-five horses, four dogs, three cats, seventeen ducks and two geese were shaken up but were unscathed except for one scrape on the forehead of one horse. The duck house had been blown about fifteen feet. Pound reported, “They were pretty upset when I let them out, but all were fine.” She was able to mend two smaller pastures for the livestock and rotated them until more of the farm got cleared and repaired. She adds, “Life went on for them as usual then.”
Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources informed Pound that she would be responsible for all repairs. She was renting a portion of privately owned property prior to DCNR’s involvement with Ridley Creek State Park. She was further informed that her lease would be doubled and reduced unfavorably. Her insurance company, too, was less than helpful. She reports that equipment to them were wheelbarrows and pitchforks, not items such as jumps and tractors.
In spite of her 30-year commitment to the property which included considerable improvements, it did not make sense financially to stay there. After the family left, Pound learned the house’s foundation was cracked and had shifted, and the house will likely be demolished.
In March 2020 the family purchased a farm in West Chester, Pa. Pound describes it, “Smaller, but a lovely property surrounded by other farms. It is a wonderful community.”
But on Sept. 1, 2021 the West Chester farm was hit by Hurricane Ida. They thought they were prepared, having moved much of their equipment to higher ground, but the storm far exceeded expectations. At about 11:00 p.m., police lights appeared in the driveway. Pound said, “I went out to see what was happening and saw the car floating.” She and husband Larry went to the barn which had no water yet, but the pastures were flooded. By 11:45 p.m. water entered the barn, and by midnight they desperately evacuated the horses. She put five into a trailer and the rest in the front yard.
Again, everything in the arena was lost. The pastures were under eight feet of water; flooding was at nineteen feet. The duck house in the barn was swept away. It was finally rescued from a tree across the road. However, one older duck was lost. Pound’s son was able to get the cats into the hay loft.
The following day neighboring farmers offered good pasture to use as long as needed. They moved the geldings to one and the mares to the other.
With 4 inches of mud everywhere that had to be shoveled out and then the stalls wet-vacuumed, it took three weeks to get the farm working again. All stalls required power washing and sanitizing, along with the barn. The brand new washer floated around the tack room. All feed was lost, plus the cabinets and hot water heater. The manure spreader floated away. The saddles were okay because Pound had moved them earlier to the top racks.
They rebuilt the fencing, and found some jumps in the trees. Items are still being collected from the area.
Although the horses seemed shook up, Pound said, “Once they got to the gorgeous pastures they forgot I existed!” She adds, “Being in this farming community made a huge difference. Neighbors just showed up to lend a hand or a hug.”
Pound expresses sympathy for those around her. She says it was hard for her family and others to see something she worked hard to build just destroyed. “It was hard for me to see all these big men hide tears while trying to comfort me,” she recollects.
However, in spite of not one, but two disasters to her and to her family and her business within just two years, Pound chooses one descriptive word, “Gratitude.” She reflects, “I always think of what did not happen instead of what did. I make sure my focus is on what good came out of the struggle, large or small. And I never dwell on the negative; that has always been my personality. What is next? What needs to be done? Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will succeed. Maybe the road you are on is not the trip you planned but it is where you are supposed to be right now at the moment.”
Tornadoes are generally regarded as life threatening. When Pound assesses what that tornado did to the house surrounded by massive trees, including the torn-away wall where her husband had been sleeping, she says, “We were not just lucky, it was miracle. There is no other explanation. God put his hand over our house.”
Pound’s business changed. She now teaches riding and has a boarding facility. Since the tornado and moving to the other farm, she sold or gave away all the lesson horses. At the new Clonmel Farm, she now has only boarded horses, and no longer teaches people who do not own a horse.
Her business model includes importing horses. She explains, “My most important service is importing Foxhunters from Ireland and Lusitanos from Brazil. I specialize in safe, sane horses for mature riders.” But she has found horses for all ages and abilities, including horses for very specific ‘needs list.’ She adds, “This year I am expanding and will travel to Hungary for the first time.”