Multiple tornados touch down on East Coast
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 02:09
Recently, tornados struck Bellmawr, N.J. and Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y., while Washington D.C. also saw a severe thunderstorm on the same day.
Geography professor David Legates said while tornados are unusual events in the northeast, this is not the first time they have hit the region.
“They’re not uncommon but they’re not as common as the tornados are in, say, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas,” Legates said. “Tornados have appeared in all 50 states, they just occur less frequently and with less intensity on the east coast.”
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, from 2000 to 2009, there have been 74 tornadoes in the state of New York, 85 in Maryland and 13 in New Jersey.
Tornadoes are classified by the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which is based on sets of wind estimates. The scale ranges from F0 tornadoes, which are storms that produce light damage with winds less than 73 m.p.h., to F5 tornadoes which indicates utter destruction and winds up to 317 m.p.h., according to NOAA.
“The scale is dependent on what is hit,” Legates said. “If a tornado moves through a wheat field, doing virtually no damage, is it an F1 or an F-2? The Enhanced Fujita scale takes this into account and is based on Doppler radar and wind speed, independent of damage.”
According to the NOAA, there has never been an F5 tornado on the east coast since 1950.
The tornado last week, which struck Bellmawr, N.J., averaged winds of 70 mph, classifying it as an F0.
According to the National Weather Service, the two tornados that touched down in Queens and Brooklyn last week reached wind speeds of 70 m.p.h. and 110 m.p.h., classifying them as F0 and F2, respectively.
With three tornados touching down in the last two weeks, climatologists are questioning whether there is a new weather trend hitting the east coast.
Sophomore Lindsey Marmel, whose hometown is close to Belmawr, N.J., said the recent tornado outbreak is concerning.
“I’ve always had a fear of tornados,” Marmel said. “I know they’re not common but the news doesn’t help much.”
She said she saw first-hand the impact of a tornado when one hit her hometown roughly 10 years ago.
“I remember a tornado destroyed the house of a kid in one of my classes in seventh grade,” Marmel said. “His family was forced to live in a trailer until their house was rebuilt.”
Despite her experience with tornados, Marmel said she believes that the recent tornado outbreak is a cycle that will die down.
“They’ve happened before, they’re going to happen again,” Marmel said.
Sophomore Shane Ross said he is also somewhat nervous about the possibility of tornadoes.
“I’m a little more concerned now than I was,” Ross said. “It seems to always have been likely.”
Legates said people do not need to worry about the prospect of a tornado.
“A tornado is formed from instability,” he said. “It requires moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, cold air from Canada and dry air from the Southwest. When all of those pressure systems are condensed together, you have a tornado.”