The morning sheds light on a very battered region this morning, we have multiple school closings, road closures and still large pockets of the region with no utility services. What we know as of this morning is that a well forecasted severe weather outbreak impacted most of the region, we know that several discrete storm cells broke out in front of the main squall line and due to prime conditions we had a few of these cells developed into super cells, meaning they had rotation. These storms spawned tornado warnings due to this radar indicated rotation.
As of this morning there has not been any tornado touchdowns “confirmed” by the National Weather Service. Having said that, we know that these storms had winds that may have approached 100 miles per hour and can exceed this as well, and some of the largest hail reports we have seen in our region in quite some time as supercells have extremely strong updrafts. Supercell storms can create microbursts that contain winds that can be as damaging as a small tornado but across a larger area. The damage pattern from a microburst is fanned out in multiple directions from a center point where the microburst hit the surface, trees can be sheered off from the tops and roofs can be removed. These storm cells impacted, northern Ulster near Saugerties and also parts of Sullivan County near Livingston Manor and spread into Columbia County as well.
Once the cold front got closer to the region, the storms became more linear and formed into a bowing line segment. The reason we call this a bowing line is the shape the line takes on radar, it appears to bow outwards, the reason for this is tremendous winds behind the squall line. This line of storms hit Southern Ulster, Southern Dutchess, Orange and Putnam particularly hard. The main impact here was something called straight line winds, the damage pattern from this effect is all from the same direction, multiple trees and house damage and utility damage all from a similar direction, straight line winds can reach and exceed 100 mph as well and cause more widespread damage than a weak tornado. This line continues to sag south and impact Rockland and Westchester Counties as well but was also beginning to lose its severe aspects as it tracked south.
At some point crews from the local National Weather Service office will go out to the areas where a tornado is suspected or reported to have made a touch down. They will look at the damage and determine if it was caused by microburst, straight line winds or a tornado. When looking for tornado damage it is a spiral pattern and it tends to be along a specific path and can be very localized, tornados in this part of the county do not always have the longest paths or the widest, they can be only a few hundred feet wide and only travel a few hundred feet or a few miles. The trees will have a lot of twisting damage and there will be a unique pattern to the damage they survey.
So in short, what really matters is that as with any science there is specific titles and causes as there is for damage in a storm, but we must all be humbled by the fact that whether it’s straight line winds or a microburst or a tornado it is all very damaging, very deadly and for anyone who went through it, very scary. We pour our hearts into keeping you all as far ahead of severe weather as possible. It breaks our heart to know that a life was lost in our region yesterday, and our thoughts are with everyone who’s lives and property have been impacted by this event. We also work to educate all of you on all the details of meteorology, because a greater understanding improves our ability to communicate the complexities and the threats involved in it.
Thank you all for allowing us the responsibility of getting this information out to you, please keep our region in your thoughts today, help a neighbor clean up, thank a first responder or get a utility crew some coffee. Winter storms and now this severe weather have caused heavy impacts on our utility crews over the last few months, probably the most concentrated amount of high impact utility hits that I can remember, they are working hard to get us back up and running, and our partners at Central Hudson do a great job preparing and staying ahead of weather events like this one. Keep your heads up and let’s rebuild and get back on our feet.