Weather History: Ten Year Anniversary of NYC’s Strongest Tornado

Ten years ago today, an EF2 tornado roared through New York City. It was the strongest twister on record to hit the Big Apple.

NYC Tornado of 2007. Credit: NYT

With winds measured up to 135 mph, it left a trail of destruction nine miles long from Staten Island to Brooklyn with the hardest hit neighborhoods being Bay Ridge and Sunset Park. The storm toppled trees and knocked out power to more than 4,000 customers. It damaged hundreds of cars and dozens of homes, including five that had their roofs ripped off. The storm also dumped 1.91 inches of rain in just one hour, which caused flash floods and the temporary suspension of subway service during the morning commute.

Historically, tornadoes have been rare events in NYC. In recent years, however, they have been happening more frequently. Of the eleven twisters that have touched down in the city since 1950, seven have occurred since 2003.

Note: Tornado ratings moved from the Fujita Scale (F) to the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF) in 2007.

Tropical Storm Cindy Batters Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Cindy, the third named storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, made landfall between Cameron, LA and Port Arthur, TX early Thursday morning. It battered the area with heavy rain and winds measured up to 40 mph.

With rainbands spreading out across the Gulf Coast, flash floods were reported from New Orleans, LA to Pensacola, FL. The storm also downed trees and knocked out power to more than 32,000 customers across six states.

Moving inland, the storm was soon downgraded to a tropical depression. However, it still spawned a destructive tornado in Fairfield, AL. The NWS has given the twister a preliminary rating of EF-2.

The remnants of Cindy are expected to travel northeast over the next several days, unleashing even more torrential rain as it moves along.

Tropical Storm Cindy in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: NOAA/NWS

Severe Weather Outbreak in Midwest brings Oklahoma an EF-4 Tornado

Over the past few days, severe weather – including a series of tornadoes – has been roaring across the Midwest. These powerful storms have caused widespread damage and claimed the lives of at least two people.

According to the NWS, thirty-eight tornadoes have been confirmed so far across ten states. The strongest was rated EF-4, the second highest ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.  With winds raging between 166 and 200 mph, it devastated the area around Katie, Oklahoma on Monday afternoon. This was the first EF-4 twister of 2016.

On Wednesday, another round of severe storms brought accumulating hail to Omaha, Nebraska. More than twelve inches piled up on the ground, requiring snowplows to clear the streets.

Year to date, this tornado season has been fairly quiet. But, as this latest outbreak shows, it only takes one storm to devastate a community. May is typically the most active month of the year for severe weather in the US.

Tornado touches down near Katie, Oklahoma. Credit: KJRH

An EF-4 tornado touches down near Katie, Oklahoma. Credit: KJRH

Deadly Tornado Devastates Towns in Northern Illinois

tornado outbreak barreled across the mid-west on Thursday night. The strongest of these twisters caused widespread destruction, two deaths, and at least twenty injuries in the neighboring towns of Fairdale and Rochelle in northern Illinois.

The National Weather Service has given the deadly tornado a preliminary rating of EF-4, the second highest ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Measuring a half-mile wide with winds near 200mph, the wedge shaped twister is reported to have traveled nearly thirty miles on the ground.

Local officials in Fairdale say the storm affected every home in the community with eighteen swept completely off their foundations. The tornado also destroyed many trees and power lines across the area and even toppled a tractor-trailer on Interstate-39.

Tornadoes of this intensity are not that common in northern Illinois. The NWS says Thursday’s storm was the strongest tornado on record (since 1950) for the two counties where Fairdale and Rochelle are located – DeKalb County and Ogle County, respectively.

Year to date, tornado season – which typically begins to ramp up in March – has been fairly quiet. But, as this latest storm shows, it only takes one tornado to devastate a community.

Tornado Damage.  Image Credit: Rockford Fire Dept.

Tornado Damage. Image Credit: Rockford Fire Dept.

Autumn Considered the Second Season for Tornadoes

Spring is the season most commonly associated with twisters in the United States. Autumn, however, can be just as dangerous and is known as the “second season” for tornadoes.

According to NOAA, approximately 1200 tornadoes touch down in the US every year. While most occur in “Tornado Alley”, in the central part of the country, activity there tends to peak in May. The second season is most active in the mid-south, an area often referred to as “Dixie Alley”.

During the transitional months of autumn, the jet stream frequently dips south bringing cooler air into the region. At the same time, warm, moist air is flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. When these two different air masses meet, the local weather can get very active. In fact, some of the largest tornado outbreaks of any month have occurred in October and November.

Credit: USTornadoes

Credit: USTornadoes.com

Credit: USTornadoes

Credit: USTornadoes.com

Deadly Tornado Strikes Upstate New York

A tornado tore through the town of Smithfield in upstate New York on Tuesday. It caused widespread damage and claimed the lives of four people.

Carving out a 2.5-mile path of destruction, this deadly twister toppled trees and leveled homes. With winds ranging from 111-mph to 135-mph, it was rated EF-2 by the National Weather Service. While tornadoes in New York are not very common, they are not unheard of.  In fact, two twisters touched down in NYC in 2012.

Tuesday’s tornado, according to NOAA, was the second deadliest in NY history.  It was only outranked by a storm that struck Orange County in November 1989 that caused nine fatalities.

Storm damage in Smithfield, NY  Credit: Syracuse.com

Storm damage in Smithfield, NY.  Credit: Syracuse.com

Twin Tornadoes Tear Through Nebraska

Barreling across northeastern Nebraska on Monday, a pair of twin tornadoes leveled the small farming town of Pilger, NE. The so-called “sisters” claimed the lives of two people and injured numerous others.

The two wedge tornadoes were reported to have been on the ground for nearly an hour and traveled along parallel pathways getting as close as one mile apart. With winds ranging between 166 and 200 mph, the National Weather Service has rated both twisters EF-4. That is the second highest ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Massive twin tornadoes are rare events. Experts say, if one thunderstorm spawns two separate twisters simultaneously, one usually dissipates or is overtaken by the other. The size, strength, and longevity of Monday’s tornadoes were extremely unusual.

With warm, moist air lingering over the region, violent weather returned to Nebraska on Tuesday. A multi-vortex tornado was spotted in Coleridge, NE, but that storm has not yet been rated. More severe weather, including possible tornadoes, is expected in the area again on Wednesday.

Rare twin tornadoes tear across Nebraska. Image Credit: KEYC

Rare twin tornadoes tear across Nebraska. Image Credit: KEYC

Multi-Day Tornado Outbreak

After getting off to a slow start, the severe weather season has kicked into overdrive. A multi-day tornado outbreak has been wreaking havoc across the southern and central United States since Sunday. Widespread destruction, power outages, and a mounting death toll have been reported across several states. Some of the hardest hit areas include Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama.

According to local authorities, the twister that hit Vilonia and Mayflower, Arkansas on Sunday night was on the ground for 29.2 miles and claimed the lives of at least 16 people. With winds in excess of 136 mph, the NWS has assigned it a preliminary rating of EF-3. On Monday, the same deadly storm system moved into Mississippi and Alabama and generated even more tornadoes. Local officials there say hundreds of homes were destroyed and at least a dozen people were killed. The strongest storm in this outbreak so far was an EF-4 (preliminary rating) that touched down in Louisville, Mississippi. With winds ranging between 166 and 200 mph, it was also the strongest tornado to form in the U.S. to date this year.

Tornadoes are par for the course in this part of the country in spring, but the longevity of this outbreak is unusual. With warm, moist air moving up from the Gulf of Mexico and feeding into a very slow moving low-pressure system, the threat of severe weather continues to linger.

Tornado ravaged Vilonia, Arkansas.  Image Credit: EpochTimes/AP

Tornado ravaged Vilonia, Arkansas.  Image Credit: EpochTimes/AP

Slow Start to Tornado Season

Spring is usually the height of severe weather season in the United States. This year, however, it has been slow going – at least so far.

According to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, there have only been 20 tornadoes rated EF-1 or higher to date in 2014. On average, we usually see 157 storms by this point in the season. Of the twisters that did form, none were rated EF-3 or stronger. That is fairly weak by tornado standards, which are measured from EF-0 to EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale.

With colder than average temperatures dominating most of the country recently, storm development – which needs warm moist air and explosive convection – has been limited. That said, a slow start does not necessarily mean a slow season. It only takes one strong storm to devastate an area. Last year, for example, was a below average season, but it still produced an EF-5 that leveled Moore, OK.

May is typically the most active month of the year for tornadoes in the US.

Data Source: NOAA

Data Source: NOAA

Late Fall Tornado Outbreak in the Midwest

Severe weather, including a massive series of tornadoes, roared across the American Midwest on Sunday.  These powerful storms caused widespread damage and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people.  Numerous injuries and at least eight fatalities have been reported so far.

NWS survey teams are currently on the ground evaluating the damage, but early reports estimate that several dozen twisters touched down across seven states. The two strongest have been preliminarily rated EF-4, the second highest ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.  With winds raging between 166 and 200 mph, they devastated the towns of Washington and New Minden, both in Illinois.  Officials say these were the strongest and deadliest November tornadoes on record in the state.

This historic outbreak was the result of an explosive mix of atmospheric conditions, including instability generated by the collision of a cold front with warm, moist air moving up from the south.  In addition, the combination of a powerful jet stream aloft and a strong area of low pressure near the ground – with winds blowing in the opposite direction – helped generate spin in the atmosphere.

While autumn, the so-called second season for tornadoes, has been known to produce severe storms, they usually occur in the warmer climates of the Southeast and Gulf Coast. Twisters further north, especially powerful ones, are very rare for this time of year.

Damage from tornadoes near washington, IL

Damage from tornadoes near Washington, IL                                                                                     Image Credit: A. Koury

NOAA

Image Credit: NOAA