Lake Scranton Tornado Path a Rare Opportunity for Students

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LAKE SCRANTON -- The path of a tornado that hit Lackawanna County earlier this year became a classroom for University of Scranton students on Tuesday.

That extremely rare tornado back in February left its mark at Lake Scranton causing damage to a walking trail and some property belonging to Pennsylvania American Water.

An upside, though, is that students have a chance to see and study something we rarely see in northeastern Pennsylvania.

An ecology class from the University of Scranton stepped out of the classroom for much more than a walk in the woods.

"Back in February, we had a tornado that came through the area and it provided this very unique disturbance that we rarely get in an area like this," said Christopher Howey, professor of ecology.

Along a quiet walking trail around Lake Scranton is a reminder or the destruction seen back in February. The mess left behind by that rare winter tornado gave Professor Howey and his students a rare opportunity.

They collected samples, see how insect and plants were affected by the natural disaster. They worked in teams collecting dirt, leaves, and temperatures in the areas the tornado hit.

The students will move from the tornado's path over to the parts that were completely untouched, do the same experiments and compare the differences.

"Maybe a habitat that was once really shaded over is now completely different and we can see how that maybe affected the species that are living here," Howey said.

They don't know what they'll find but, for environmental science major Brian Kilner the process was once in a lifetime.

"I thought it was a pretty different and cool experience. Because I've always just thought of tornadoes as something that isn't around where I am, doesn't affect me. And then to be able to go somewhere 10 minutes away that had one and compare the environment in that area," Kilner said.

Their discoveries will be made back in the lab later on in the semester, an opportunity to learn from what the tornado left behind.

"I'm originally from Bear Creek where the tornado also came through, so just seeing the havoc it can wreak on a total area and the disaster that can come from it. But, studying and learning the effects can definitely help in the future," Bianca Chairge said.

Ecology students from the University of Scranton will be back out at the lake later on this week taking advantage of nature's classroom.

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