Severe weather comes to the Hudson Valley every year, but thankfully events like what we saw on Tuesday are quite rare. A significant amount of damage was done, likely millions of dollars of damage when all is said and done across the region. In addition, lives were lost in this event… and our hearts go out to the friends and family of those who were taken by this storm… our thoughts and prayers are with you.
So we are going to try and recap this massive event. This severe event was so large in size and scope, that the National Weather Service was not able to account for all of the events in our area. We have allowed for several days to pass, and for additional reports to come in and verify… but still, there are some cases that are not accounted for on this list from the National Weather Service (NWS). So please understand that this compiled list and map will not be perfect. We have utilized the NWS database for the date, and removed reports outside of the Hudson Valley in NY. So below you will find 3 graphics… one for tornado reports, one for hail reports, and one for wind damage reports. Below those, is a map with the severe reports plotted by location.
National Weather Service Severe Weather Reports: Tuesday 5/15/18
The storm damage map is likely one of the busiest we’ve ever seen over the Hudson Valley, and it doesn’t even encompass everything that happened. That said, just look at all of the severe weather reports on this map. In a ‘typical’ severe weather event for our area, we might see 3 or 4 ‘W’s indicating damaging winds over 50mph… 1 or 2 ‘H’s indicating hail of 1 inch in diameter of more… and maybe a ‘T’ indicating a reported tornado if the outbreak was particularly strong. This map has too many reports to count. Above the map, you’ll notice 3 graphics where we’ve
4 Confirmed Tornadoes
The National Weather Service confirmed 4 of the 5 tornadoes that were reported. The Eldred tornado was classified as a severe downburst, with winds up to 95mph. But there were 4 confirmed tornadoes, and that is very likely the largest tornado outbreak in recorded history of the Hudson Valley. There were 2 tornado outbreaks with more confirmed tornadoes in New York… on May 31, 1998 (10) and May 31, 2002 (5). But those outbreaks were not focused in the Hudson Valley, with the 1998 outbreak being focused upstate (Saratoga area had an EF3), and the 2002 outbreak had 3 tornadoes in the Hudson Valley (1 confirmed in Delaware county, 1 unconfirmed in Dutchess county, and 1 unconfirmed in Putnam county). Prior to the periods discussed above… tornado data in New York is a bit more difficult to authenticate. So while we are certain that this was the largest outbreak in the Hudson Valley in at least the last 20 years… and are fairly sure it’s the largest confirmed tornado outbreak in the Hudson Valley’s recorded history… we cannot be 100% sure as of this post, that there was not a larger outbreak at some time.
Countless Reports of Hail and Wind Damage
The map is jaw dropping, with roughly 50 reports of wind damage, and roughly 20 reports of hail in excess of 1 inch of diameter… in addition to the 4 confirmed tornadoes and 1 reported tornado that turned out to be downburst… for a total of 75 severe reports in the Hudson Valley. In comparison, the May 31, 2002 severe weather outbreak produced roughly 5 reports of wind damage, 9 reports of hail, 1 confirmed tornado and 2 unconfirmed tornadoes… for a total of 17 severe reports in the Hudson Valley. It would take us a considerable amount of time to look at ALL the data on record to be certain, but it stands to reason that the May 15, 2018 severe outbreak was the largest severe weather event on record for our area.
Cases of Unreported Severe Weather Damage
For all the reports that were submitted to the National Weather Service, there were MANY cases of severe weather damage that were not reported. Likely the most asked about area, is an area near the Tri-county area where Sullivan, Ulster and Orange counties meet… affectively between Pine Bush, Walker Valley, and Bloomingburg. The primary road that traverses this areas is Burlingham Road. We have highlighted this area on the severe weather map above, to demonstrate that there are no severe reports that were given to the National Weather Service.
Due to the high inquiry, with no official reports listed, we (HVW) decided to do a brief assessment of the damage in the region, to see if a tornado had possibly touched down in that area. After a preliminary review, it’s likely that a strong microburst or macroburst affected that area, with wind gusts over 60 to 80mph likely. There were dozens… maybe hundreds of trees downed in an area of roughly 10 square miles that we informally surveyed. Almost all of the debris was facing the same direction… as if a giant knocked over the tree from west to east… meaning that straight line winds were almost certainly responsible.
Hopefully someone from the National Weather Service will take a look at the debris, but this particular area faces 2 problems. The first, is that it is the intersection of 3 counties… and each county is covered by a different NWS office. It could easily be difficult to decide which NWS office should send a research team. The second problem for this area, is that no report was made to the National Weather Service by a trained spotter… and thus the NWS may not be aware of the situation. We’re not sure if there is a certified NWS spotter in that area, but this is surely one of the problems with reporting and analysis of severe weather events… even today, in 2018. If the reports don’t get made to the appropriate people, then historically speaking, it’s as if the event never happened. We’re not sure exactly how to fix this problem… but it’s an issue that is surely worth future discussion.
This was a tremendous event, any way you slice it. From the severity of damage, to the size of the area damaged, to the number of people impacted, to the duration of time that some areas were without utilities. We expect that additions and corrections will be made to the data and reports as time goes on… simply because of all the number of things that need to be taken into account. We welcome additional reports and information in the comments section, and we will try to work those items in where necessary.
We have not had time to go through all the historical data. In fact, we may not even have access to all the historical data. Even so, when we compare this event, to one of the most severe outbreaks in the last 20 years… this event (as it pertains to the Hudson Valley specifically) has roughly 4 times as many severe weather reports. For that reason alone, it stands to reason that this was if not THE biggest event on record in the Hudson Valley, it is surely one of the worst ever. We hope you made it through safe and sound, with as little impact as possible. But we know that many of our neighbors were not so lucky. The community has been tremendous thus far, in responding to those in need. Lets make sure that we continue to do so. The Hudson Valley is an amazing place… with amazing people. Thanks for reading…