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Tornado Confirmed During Last Night's Storms as Recovery Continues

This afternoon, the National Weather Service of Boston confirmed a tornado touched down near the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border toward the tail end of the line of storms that caused severe wind damage. This tornado, a rare for New England nighttime tornado, touched down at 11:23pm in Lincoln, Rhode Island before traveling east across the border and lifting at 11:30pm in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The tornado was rated as an EF-1 with winds estimated at 100mph.


This confirmation was expected after looking at the radar signature and damage report details. A tornado warning was issued at 11:23pm, last night. As that warning was ongoing, radar was consistent with rotation in the area (which prompted the warning). The correlation coefficient from the area at the time showed what was perhaps a tornado debris signature (TDS) forming.


Correlation Coefficient from 11:25pm last night showing a TDS potentially forming. This is now confirmed to be in the area where the tornado was located:


Along with this, there were damage reports that were more consistent with tornadic winds rather than straight-line winds. One report mentioned the top of a dozen mature hardwood trees were snapped off about 40 feet off the ground. This kind of tree damage is more consistent with tornadic damage. This was said to have occurred at 11:25pm in Rehoboth, which was in the vicinity of the rotating cell.



With that said, this line of storms produced much more widespread straight-line damage, which ranged from western Connecticut all the way to the South Shore. The line of storms did not lose any strength as it pushed through southern New England, rather quickly. The line entered the region around 9:30pm and exited into the ocean shortly after midnight.


Radar from last night showing the line tearing through the region:


In that time frame, the line produced wind gusts close to 80mph (along with the 100mph winds within the tornado). Numerous reports described widespread tree damage with a handful of homes and cars getting damaged by the falling lumber. Tragically, one was killed in Connecticut by a falling tree.


Structural damage from trees in Rhode Island and Connecticut Photos: Rhonda Frenze; NBC Connecticut


This morning, around 75,000 power outages were ongoing across Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. As of 7:30pm, that number has dropped to about 17,000. Still, Eversource has confirmed that this will be a multi-day outage for some. They also stated that they had to contend with around 100 blocked roads.


A storm report from Berkley, Massachusetts states: "Caller living along Taunton River reported tree branches and a tree down. Said it felt like the house was shaking, described a 'wall of water' when the storm moved through."


Photo by Henry Swenson - Henry's Weather Channel



This event had some characteristics of a ‘derecho’, which is defined as a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. While the specific criteria for a derecho can be a point of contention, the NOAA’s updated 2022 criteria have the squall line needing to travel at least 400 miles and contain frequent gusts of 58mph or greater with several gusts of at least 75mph. This event is unlikely to meet this criteria


The National Weather Service, on the other hand, says an event can be classified as a derecho “if the wind damage swath extends more than 240 miles (about 400 kilometers) and includes wind gusts of at least 58 mph (93 km/h) or greater along most of its length.” This definition would be in the cards. Regardless of the specific criteria, it’s up to the National Weather Service to officially classify this event as a derecho or not.


Storm reports from yesterday showing a clear line of wind damage from Pennsylvania through Massachusetts:


Derecho events are uncommon in New England. They are much more common across the central Plains and into the Great Lakes region. On average, derecho events occur in New England every two to four years. The last notable one in New England was in the fall of 2020. That derecho stretched from upstate New York to Cape Cod. It's worth noting that this derecho was estimated to be about 320 miles long, although this was before the NOAA changed their criteria to the 400 mile threshold.



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