When employees arrived to work at Key-Aid Ace Hardware on Saturday, Feb. 25, they knew bad weather was in the forecast. But the staff had no idea that the powerful storm that was brewing would come right to their front door. Although no one was injured at the store or in the affected communities, property damage occurred. At Key-Aid Ace Hardware, the cameras were rolling the entire time. Once footage from the storm was discovered and posted on the store’s Facebook page, a viral video was born.
When a Storm Strikes
The Ephrata, Pennsylvania, business was among one of many affected by a string of storms that hit Ephrata and its surrounding communities. According to Elliott Pfautz, co-owner of the business, Saturday went from being gloomy to an intense storm.
“Our local meteorologists said the storm that came through our area was a microburst, with straight-line winds that kicked up to 90 miles per hour,” Pfautz says. “We knew there would be storms, but around 3:30 p.m., the sky got really dark and a tornado warning came through, and that’s when the storm struck.”
With five employees in the building and one customer still on-site, those at the store went to the back room, away from windows to take shelter.
After the storm passed through, Pfautz says they emerged to see the immediate damage that took place outside the store. Inventory outside, like chairs and grills had flown all over. Damage to signs and other exterior aspects of the building totaled around $10,000, Pfautz says. However, it’s in the process of review with insurance.
“We’re very thankful nobody was walking in or out of the store when the storm struck,” he says. “There were 40- to 50-pound objects flying all over and there could have been serious damage. We need our porch roof repaired, and we lost some products, but it could’ve been much worse.”
Storm Footage Posted on Facebook Becomes Viral Video Overnight
As Pfautz and the employees cleaned up the damage to the outside the store, someone mentioned the idea of seeing the video footage from the surveillance cameras.
“We were all talking about how the majority of the damage took place in front of the store,” he says. “We have surveillance cameras set up in several spots there, so we thought if the video didn’t go out, maybe we’d be able to see it in action.”
Cleaning up the storm’s mess was priority No. 1, however, and it wasn’t until Monday that Pfautz and his team reviewed the Saturday afternoon footage of the storm blowing through.
“When we saw the video we were blown away by how intense the winds were to lift and move such heavy objects,” Pfautz says. “We decided to share it on our Facebook page with our customers, and the video went viral overnight. We just kept watching our Facebook notifications climb.”
Although they didn’t post the video expecting attention, the more views it gained, the more news outlets reached out to Key-Aid Ace Hardware to share their story.
Following their newfound online fame, local news stations reached out and requested permission to share the video with their viewers. The rest of the week, news stations held live broadcasts in the store parking lot and customers came to pick up items like chainsaws and generators while chatting about their viral video as well.
“The storm caused an estimated $7 million in damage to the communities it struck,” Pfautz says. “However, there were no reported injuries, which is amazing when you think about how strong the storm was. We’re very happy that no one was hurt.”