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A Closer Look at Rhode Island's Tornado Last Week

Last Friday's tornado in Rhode Island was the strongest to touch down in New England in nearly a decade (the last EF-2 tornado occurred in 2014). This tornado was also the strongest to strike Rhode Island in nearly 40 years. This tornado was the strongest of five total that touched down across the region on August 18th.

The tornado touched down at 8:40am near Byron Randall Road in Scituate. This touchdown point is where the tornado was strongest and inflicted the most damage. Winds were estimated to be up to 115mph. This touchdown area is rural, and much of the damage was done to trees. Hundreds of large trees were snapped at the base or completely uprooted. Structural damage to homes did occur in this area as well. Significant roof damage occurred, along with a chimney being blown down, windows being blown and a door was dislodged from its frame.

After causing heavy damage in Scituate, the tornado moved into Johnston. At this point, the storm crossed over interstate 295, where drivers caught the tornado on camera and a car was lifted several feet into the air before being dropped back down. The driver of this car was transported to the hospital with minor injuries. This was the only injury sustained during this tornado.

The car that was picked up by the tornado.

After crossing the highway, the tornado moved over Carriage Way and Bridle Way, where many more trees were damaged. Some homes and cars sustained damage from falling trees. Other homes in the area lost shingles from their roofs.

An area cemetery was then disturbed by the tornado with significant tree damage occurring along with overtopped head stones. In Johnston, maximum winds were estimated to be up to 100mph, meaning the tornado has weakened slightly and was now an EF-1.

After Johnston, the tornado crossed into North Providence. Damage in North Providence was very similar to what occurred in Johnston. Many trees were damaged, some falling onto homes and cars, causing more damage. Two homes in the town were made uninhabitable due to damage from trees. The hardest hit areas of North Providence were Lydia Avenue, Armand Drive and Bennett Street. With similar damage, it's very likely the tornado held it's strength from Johnston, max winds of 100mph.

The tornado dissipated in North Providence at 8:57am. The tornado lasted for 17 minutes and tracked a total of 9.1 miles, which is a rather long track for New England. Most New England tornadoes last less than 2 miles, with many lasting well under 1 mile. Interestingly, this is not the longest track tornado in New England this year. In late July, a tornado tracked for just over 13 miles in southwest New Hampshire. This 9.1 mile path was discontinuous, messing the tornado lifted off the ground briefly before touching back down.

The same thunderstorm that produced this tornado would go on to produce a second tornado in North Attleborough and Mansfield, Massachusetts ten minutes after the Rhode Island tornado completely dissipated. This tornado was rated an EF-1 with maximum winds estimated at 90mph. This tornado also had a rather long track, lasting for 7.6 miles. This track, like the Rhode Island track, was discontinuous.

Three other tornadoes touched down in New England on this day, the first being in Scotland, Connecticut. The other two touched down after the Rhode Island and Mansfield tornadoes. There was an EF-0 in Stoughton, Massachusetts and an EF-1 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. August 18, 2023 becomes only the fifth day since 2009 to produce at least 5 tornadoes in New England.



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