Wexford baker is recovering having been struck by falling timber when tornado hit
A well-known Wexford baker is recovering having been struck by falling timbre when the tornado hit, causing part of the roof of her business to come crashing down on top of her.
Helena Berney was working alongside her daughter Elaine and had just turned the Christmas cakes in one of the ovens at Helena’s Bakery, Longraigue, Foulksmills, when a tornado struck.
At 12.20 p.m. that Wednesday, the two were chatting on opposite sides of the kitchen when the sky suddenly darkened.
They had started working at 5.30 a.m. and were almost half way into their work day at the bakery located directly behind the family home.
Elaine said: “You could see garden chairs hitting off the van. The wind started to pick up and the next thing was the greyness, you couldn’t even see the house – and the windows started buckling. I just screamed run and the two of us ran at the same time and then the roof came down and hit her on the head.”
Helena and Elaine screamed as they saw the roof sucked up and dropped.
"She started screaming and I grabbed her and pulled her over against the wall. The two of us grabbed onto each other to protect ourselves from all of the debris. You wouldn’t call it wind. You could see it. It’s the most intense thing.”
A cement block flew in from the yard missing them by feet.
"There was plasterboard and everything flying at us. We just held on and held on. It was gone in a matter of seconds.”
The tornado engulfed the entirety of the family’s land, felling trees as it swept through.
Helena sustained a 22cm cut on the crown of her head and was helped into the house which was covered in bits of trees, glass rain and muck as the storm blew the back door and windows in.
“We were trying to get in away from the windows. Then I realised that blood was starting to pump down her face. I had no phone; it was in my van. It was after lifting the van and dropping it on top of a wall beside where the dog was in a cage.
"The phone lines was gone. The steel was hanging everywhere – sheets flying around, timbre too. The wind was still strong.”
The shed steel door got sucked into the shed and five solar panels were damaged when the bakery roof hit the side of the shed and went onto the roof and onto the field.
"I don’t know how nobody wasn’t killed because that road is so busy.”
Helena said: “We were just hysterical; traumatised. Elaine just said, ‘What was that’.”
Elaine rang an ambulance which took an hour to arrive as the roads were blocked with fallen trees.
Elaine rang her brother TJ who arrived and took over the situation.
Helena was taken by ambulance were her wound was stapled and she got stitches. She was released that night.
"My head is still paining me. My ears are ringing. I have to go for a CT scan. I can’t sleep much with the nightmares; thinking about what could have happened. I’m back on my feet but we’re still putting ourselves back together.”
She returned to a house with no ESB and the phone lines down.
Elaine said the family will be forever grateful to their neighbours.
"They cleared the roads for the ambulance and have been here since. Some have put their jobs at risk, taking days off work to help us. We would be absolutely lost without them,” Elaine says, her eyes welling up with tears of gratitude.
The Berneys managed to have the roof sealed and to get new doors and windows in the house. "We’re trying to get back to some sort of normalcy. It was like a warzone.”
Two weeks on from the tornado, they hope to be back baking within weeks but getting back to baking 300 tarts a day and cakes may be some time off.
With the delivery van damaged and a huge clean up operation to take place, the business is hoping for understanding from customers as they get back on their feet.
Still awaiting confirmation that their insurance will cover all their losses, Helena (65), who is baking since she was a child – is anxious to get back baking. “We’re running out of time for Christmas. This is our busiest time of the year and there are cakes and puddings on order.”
Elaine said they were not the only household and business impacted.
"The tornado was wider than our boundaries here. It hit sheds and houses.”
The thought of what of could have happened if they were outdoors haunts Helena and Elaine.
"Imagine if we had been outside. I think my husband Matt was looking down on us.”