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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Severe Storms July 26 Spark Tornado Warnings In CT

A cold front moving northwest from NY state triggered severe thunderstorms last night between 4:30 PM-6:00 PM.

At 4:17 PM a rotating cell in Easthampton, MA produced a funnel cloud which was reported by trained spotters. As the cell moved south, crossing over the Mass Pike, another funnel cloud (or the same one) was reported in West Springfield at 4:30 PM. I should mention, a funnel cloud is not a tornado. When a funnel cloud touches the ground, only then is it considered a tornado. So far, there are no tornado reports. But it's certainly possible. The NWS is investigating the damage.

This cell with a history of producing a funnel cloud was moving right of the mean wind field. What does this mean? Well, while most of the storms were moving east, this one was heading southeast. That’s one of many indications that the storm was dangerous. Most supercells are right movers. This tendency is the result of differences in barometric pressure that develop as vertical wind shear interacts with the storm's updraft.

The storm was heading for Tolland and Windham Counties and the rotation was still strong. A tornado warning was issued for the northern portion of the two CT counties. No funnel clouds were reported within CT state borders but it continued to rotate and a line of severe storms was developing across northern Connecticut.

4:44: Windsor Locks (Hartford Co.) reported sustained winds of 41 mph.

4:51: Enfield (Hartford Co.) - Wind damage. Large branches down on
Spring Street near Suffield Line. Wires down on Tayor Road.

Look at the cell just north of Tolland County. Notice the yellow and blue colors in close proximity showing rotation.

5:05: Manchester (Hartford Co.) - Wind Damage. Many wires down.

5:16: Rockville (Tolland Co.) - 1 foot of flooding on Union Street. Intersection of West Street & West Main Street impassable.

5:25: Columbia (Tolland Co.)- Wind Damage. Tree down of Route 66.

5:25: Columbia (Tolland Co.) – Lightning. House fire started by lightning on Old Willimantic Road.

5:30: Windham (Windham Co.) - Wind Damage. Trees down in South Windham. Large branch down on steps of town hall.

5:30: Rotation was no longer present in the supercell and the National Weather Service did not re-issue another tornado warning. I mentioned that the rotation was no longer present live during severe weather coverage around 5:20. A strong line of storms continued to rip through the state with Severe Thunderstorm Warnings issued for every county (except Fairfield).

5:32: Willimantic (Windham Co.) - Numerous trees and wires down on a few homes. Rubber membrance roof blown off apartment house landing on Bridge street. Worst hit area was Pleasant street (according to the Fire Dept.). Trees down on Route 6 and Mackey Road. Large branches down on Riverside Drive.

6:00: New London: Wind Damage.

The severe weather moved completely offshore around 6:40 PM. But scattered non-severe storms continued in Fairfield County.

Again, there were no tornado reports in CT or MA. BUT there are lots of damage reports from gusty winds. Some of the hardest hit areas in Mass and CT were likely caused by microbursts. A microburst is a fast coming column of air rushing down from a cloud and spreading out in a hurry. Sometimes damage from microbursts can be confused with tornado damage. I’m sure the National Weather Service will be investigating some of the damage just to make sure (mainly in MA).

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