Continuing to rebuild

Ace High Auto was one of a few busi­nesses on North­east Av­en­ue af­fected by the tor­nado that touched down on May 18. The apart­ments above the busi­ness have been de­clared un­in­hab­it­able. JENNY SWI­GODA / TIMES PHOTO

It’s been more than a month since a small tor­nado hit the North­east, yet loc­al busi­nesses aren’t out of the storm yet.

Jack Han­ratty said he con­stantly catches him­self look­ing up at the sky. Why not? Last month, the sky looked in on him.

He and his boss, Bill Deck­ard, own­er of the Beer Hut beer dis­trib­ut­or on North­east Boulevard, were un­load­ing cases when a tor­nado hit in mid­after­noon May 18.

Han­ratty said he was stand­ing on a pal­let held up by a fork­lift stack­ing cases in a loft “when we watched the roof lift about three feet,” he said.

“I could see the sky,” he re­called last week.

Deck­ard said the twister star­ted push­ing down on the met­al of the roof, but then the wind and the rain got in the build­ing.

“It kind of looked like a Ja­pan­ese movie with Godz­illa,” he said.

Han­ratty said they watched the roof peel off as he jumped down and hustled to­ward the front of the build­ing. The storm hit and dis­ap­peared quickly, he said.

Wit­nesses said the twister, which dam­aged the beer dis­trib­ut­or and two nearby auto­mot­ive busi­nesses, was gone in about 15 seconds.

By the time Han­ratty and oth­ers could get a glimpse of the storm, all they saw was debris fly­ing to­ward Bustleton Av­en­ue and Red Li­on Road.

Han­ratty ini­tially thought an air­plane was hit­ting the build­ing. Air­craft from North­east Phil­adelphia Air­port seem to fly low as they pass over­head, he said.

Deck­ard said he thought big hail­stones — “the size of base­balls” — were hit­ting the roof.

The Beer Hut was closed un­til just be­fore Me­mori­al Day as the roof was re­built and cases of beer dam­aged by rain were re­moved, Deck­ard said. He ad­ded he had con­tract­ors work­ing on roof re­pairs right away, but the wind and the wa­ter were costly.

“We lost a lot of stock,” Han­ratty said.

Today, there are no signs that a twister had hit the prop­erty. The Beer Hut is open for busi­ness, al­though Deck­ard said cleanup still is go­ing on.

Next door, the build­ing that houses Ace High Auto still has vis­ible dam­age, and the build­ing’s two  second-floor apart­ments have been de­clared un­fit for hab­it­a­tion by the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions.

Keith Walsh, who is one of Ace High’s co-own­ers, last week said he lost about five days’ busi­ness. He said the build­ing’s own­er had only re­cently in­spec­ted the dam­age.

When he was in­ter­viewed last month, he poin­ted to debris in the park­ing lot. A few of his cus­tom­ers’ cars had been dam­aged and second-floor ex­ter­i­or dam­age was vis­ible.

R&R Auto, which sits be­hind Ace High, was the hard­est hit and is be­ing re­built now.

The twister also did some dam­age to a nearby res­taur­ant and apart­ment com­plex. Han­ratty said the storm lif­ted one of the beer dis­trib­ut­or’s signs and de­pos­ited part of it on the oth­er side of the apart­ments near the post of­fice.

He said he found that out when a post­man brought the sign frag­ment back and said, “Here, this is yours.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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