The National Weather Service has released full details on the July 29 tornado outbreak that struck portions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania with 10 confirmed tornado touch downs. While New Jersey had the most number of tornadoes, Pennsylvania had the strongest of the bunch: an EF-3 rated tornado which touched down near Bensalem.
Tornadoes are rated on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale which classifies tornadoes by their windspeeds. An EF-0 tornado is considered “weak” with winds of 65-85 mph; an EF-1 tornado is also considered weak with 86-110 mph winds. At EF-2, the tornado is considered “strong” and has winds of 111-135 mph. An EF-3 tornado is also considered strong and has winds of 136-165 mph. EF-4 are considered “violent” with winds of 166-200 mph, while an EF-5 rated tornado has winds in excess of 200 mph.
The EF-3 that touched down near Bensalem, Pennsylvania had estimated peak winds of 140 mph. The tornado traveled on the ground for 3.5 miles, with a maximum width of 530 yards or 1/3 mile. While no one was killed, the tornado did injur 4 people. The tornado touched down at 7:04 pm; by 7:12 pm, the tornado was done with its damage.
According to the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly, New Jersey forecast office, which conducted storm surveys for all but 1 tornado in the area for this event, the Somerton-Trevose-Bensalem tornado began in Somerton in Philadelphia County near Southampton Road, Kelvin Avenue, and Trevose Road where it uprooted and blew down large limbs from a
few softwood and hardwood trees. The tornado crossed County Line Road into Trevose in Bucks County where a large tree was uprooted. The tornado continued between Trevose Road and Peyton Street where additional tree damage occurred before crossing Lukens Street. The tornado then very briefly crossed back into Philadelphia County at the northern tip of Poquessing Valley Park where a few trees were uprooted. The tornado then crossed back into Trevose in Bucks County where it caused some minor cosmetic damage to some homes in the Beechwood Estates neighborhood and blew down several sections of vinyl fencing. Several small trees were also snapped or uprooted in and just south and east of the residential neighborhood. As the tornado approached Somerton Road, it began intensifying and widening substantially as it moved into the Metropolitan Industrial Center. Numerous softwood and hardwood trees were snapped or uprooted in the SUEZ Water Company property southwest of and along Somerton Road. Five wooden power poles were snapped near the ground along Somerton Road as well at the northern end of the SUEZ property. All seven warehouse buildings in the industrial complex northeast of Somerton Road sustained at least minor damage, with the most significant occurring to the Northtec building. Numerous roof mounted HVAC units were shifted or blown off of a few of the buildings in the industrial complex. Open bay doors in the western- most building caused a non-load bearing interior wall to collapse. A sedan was lifted and flipped over in the Northtec parking lot and a steel flag pole bearing a flag flattened completely to the ground. The Northtec building sustained substantial structural damage where large sections of roofing material were removed. Additionally, numerous exterior paneling was blown off, garage bay doors were blown out, a few windows were blown out, and at least two large HVAC units were blown off of the building. Numerous softwood and hardwood trees were uprooted or snapped in the industrial complex and immediately adjacent areas. Southeast of the industrial complex, minor cosmetic damage occurred to some homes along Carter Road in a residential neighborhood. Tree damage associated with the tornado occurred along Carter Road and Sussex Road north of Buckfield Terrace. This was the area where the tornado circulation reached its widest extent of around three tenths of a mile. As the tornado neared and crossed the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I- 276), an overhead roadway information sign was blown off and a portion of it landed downstream nearly a half mile away. Just north of the turnpike, minor cosmetic damage occurred to a hotel building where a tree was also uprooted in the parking lot. A large billboard was blown over just north of the turnpike and south of Street Road. A small utility building nearby had its roof blown off. The northern- most extent of the damage occurred on the Toscana 52 restaurant property where the tornado blew down some chain link fencing and uprooted a few small trees in the parking lot.
The tornado continued east-northeastward across Street Road toward the Faulkner car dealership complex where it began intensifying and somewhat narrowing its path of damage. The four dealership showrooms sustained significant damage where most windows were blown out and at least some roofing material was blown off. The most significant damage occurred to the Buick/GMC showroom where most of the roofing material was blown off, all windows and doors were blown out, and exterior walls exhibited fracturing due to stress from the wind. Roof HVAC units of this building were tossed into the parking lot behind the building. All of the dealership signs near the main road were destroyed. Scores of new and used vehicles sustained significant damage from flying debris or from being pushed or tossed trough the air. The tornado continued toward the dealership`s main service garage where the most significant damage occurred. The southwestern portion of the building was destroyed with most exterior walls collapsing completely and all roofing material blown off. Interior walls mostly remained standing. Roof HVAC units were tossed off of the building with one unit landing nearly 200 yards downstream of the building. Damage sustained to the building decreased somewhat toward the eastern end of it where portions of the exterior walls were damaged and almost all garage bay doors were blown out. The wind rushing through the garage area carried debris, car parts, and tools well away from the structure downstream. Some vehicles near the main garage building were completely destroyed from large pieces of flying debris or from being tossed and dropped back onto the ground. A small pickup truck was crushed from a collapsed exterior wall. Five people reportedly sustained minor injuries at the dealership complex.
The tornado continued east-northeast toward the Weisser Homes mobile home park and into an area of trees which sustained significant damage. Most tree canopies and limbs were completely stripped from the still standing or snapped trunks of hardwood trees in this area. A large storage container filled with car parts from the service garage parking lot upstream was lofted into the air and dropped into this area of trees. An uninhabited mobile home model was lifted and completely destroyed at the mobile home park. Another double-wide mobile home had a large portion of its roof blown off. Several other mobile home sustained varying degrees of damage as well. A large amount of various debris from the dealership complex landed in this mobile home park. Numerous softwood and hardwood trees near and just downstream of this area were snapped or uprooted along Old Lincoln Highway.
At this stage, the tornado damage path narrowed considerably and intensity weakened significantly as it crossed Old Lincoln Highway and moved toward the Lowe`s and Walmart shopping centers on Route 1. The tornado passed over these shopping centers, but no structural damage was noted to these structures. Numerous small trees were snapped and uprooted in the large parking lot area and line of trees just north of the Bensalem turnpike interchange. Some exit ramp signs were blown down in the interchange area.
The tornado damage became somewhat discontinuous as it continued east-southeast into Bensalem across Route 1 and toward a
residential neighborhood. Several homes in the neighborhood sustained loss of some roofing material and other cosmetic damage in addition to some tree damage. The tornado continued across Rockhill Road and along Richlieu Road toward the Christian Life
Center where several trees were snapped or uprooted. The church`s steeple had some paneling blown off, but the steeple itself was not damaged otherwise. The tornado continued weakening as it crossed Galloway Road then dissipated in the Bensalem Township Community Park where some minor tree damage occurred.
The next two strongest tornadoes to impact the region were rated EF-2; one struck around Barnegat, New Jersey, while the other touched-down around New Hope, Pennsylvania, and Hopewell Township, New Jersey.
The Barnegat-area tornado, rated an EF-2, had an estimated peak wind of 120 mph; it followed a path that was 4.2 miles long, while the width of the tornado was roughly 75 yards. While no deaths were reported, there were some minor injuries. The tornado first touched down at 9:03 pm and lifted up at 9:13 pm.
According to the National Weather Service, the same supercell which produced a tornado in the New Jersey Pine Barrens cycled and produced another tornado in far eastern Ocean County. The tornado touched down near the immediate western shore of Barnegat Bay. At least one building near Bay Beach off Bayshore Drive sustained roofing damage. The tornado then moved over Barnegat Bay as a waterspout. It came ashore in the area of High Bar Harbor in Long Beach Twp. The most severe damage was noted to a house on the corner of Antioch Road and Arnold Boulevard. This house was facing west-southwest, and had its entire roof structure lifted off and tossed one to two houses to the east. The house walls remained standing but most of the doors and windows on the east and west sides of the house were completely blown out, with significant damage to the inside of the house. A two-by-four from an adjacent house impaled the wall on the west side of the house. Eight people were in the house at the time the tornado hit, but they were able to take shelter in an interior closet, with only minor injuries sustained. In addition, on the north side of the house, a car in the driveway was pushed sideways several feet and their boat flipped into their neighbor`s boat. The boat`s trailer was tossed about 50 feet into a house just to the east. The degree and orientation of damage was consistent with tornadic winds of 115 to 120 mph, which is EF2 intensity. Continuing east-northeast, about a dozen homes on the south side of Arnold Boulevard sustained significant uplift of roof material, siding damage or removal, collapse of porch, patio, and sunroom structures, and blown out windows. Several large trees were uprooted and lay pointing to the east-northeast, as well as downed power poles. The tornado moved east or slightly north of east from Arnold Boulevard, over an open salt marsh, before intersecting a few houses on the corner of Collier Road and Sunset Boulevard . The most significant damage was to a house on the northwest corner of Collier and Sunset, which sustained siding damage, partial roof removal, blowout of the storm surge walls on the basement level of the elevated structure, and a large tree uprooted and laying to the east-northeast. Power poles and large trees were downed on Sunset Blvd, adjacent to the High Bar Harbor Yacht Club. There was damage to several boats in the yacht club marina, but this was mainly due to lofted debris being tossed into the marina. The circulation then moved into the cove east of the marina. However, no further significant damage was noted on the east side of the cover in Barnegat Light, indicating the tornado had likely lifted. This is corroborated by radar data which showed a weakening of the circulation and a likely dissipation before it crossed into the open Atlantic.
The EF-2 that struck along the Pennsylvania / New Jersey border had an estimated peak wind of 120 mph, a path length of 6.4 miles, and a path width of about 400 yards. It touched down at 5:59 pm near New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and dissipated over Hopewell Township in Mercer County, New Jersey at 6:14 pm. Fortunately, no deaths nor injuries were reported from this tornado.
According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Survey report, the supercell storm which produced a tornado in Plumstead Township cycled and produced another tornado beginning in New Hope in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Tree damage began near River Road just west of the Delaware River, with a portion of River Road closed and impassable due to downed trees. The tornado crossed the Delaware River and entered Mercer County, New Jersey, in the area of Washington Crossing. Multiple reports of residential tree damage were received from Washington Crossing, and the survey team observed tree damage along River Road on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. From there the tornado continued southeast and crossed Pleasant Valley Road. The first indications of EF2 damage came on that road, with numerous large hardwood and softwood trees snapped, sheared, and/or uprooted. The tornado continued southeastward and crossed through Baldpate Mountain. Continued heavy tree damage was observed in this area. An access road to the top of the mountain was barely passable when the survey team reached it in late afternoon, after many hours of tree clearing work by local parks officials and private companies. Hundreds of trees were snapped or damaged on this mountain. Damage continued down the mountain through Fiddlers Creek Road and Church Road. The tornado path then crossed Washington Crossing State Park. Further damage was observed just southeast along Bear Tavern Road. In fact, some of the largest downed trees were observed in this area. However, by this point damage became increasingly unidirectional as the storm’s rear flank downdraft likely wrapped around the tornadic circulation. Sufficient evidence of tornadic winds still existed in the Bear Tavern Road area, but it is estimated the tornado lifted soon after, shortly before entering much more densely populated areas near the Trenton Mercer Airport.
Four EF-1 tornadoes also touched down on July 29: one near Woodland Township in New Jersey, one near Plumstead Township in Pennsylvania, one in the Windsor/Robbinsville Township area of New Jersey, and one near Kempton, Pennsylvania.
The EF-1 around Woodland Township, New Jersey had estimated peak winds of 105 mph; it traveled 6.6 miles and had a width of about 250 yards. It touched down at 8:42 pm in Woodland Township in Burlington County and left Wells Mills in Ocean County at 8:51 pm. Fortunately, no fatalities nor injuries were reported.
According to the National Weather Service storm survey report, the tornado started in a heavily forested area in the eastern portion of Woodland Township; the start location is estimated to be between Stevenson Road, where survey crews found no damage, and Whiting Road about a mile and a half away, where tree damage was observed. The estimate, also aided by radar, places the start just west of the border of Burlington and Ocean Counties. After touching down, the tornado moved in an east-northeasterly direction. The bulk of the damage consisted of large snapped and uprooted pine and spruce trees with a few red maple trees. The orientation of the damage combined with radar signatures clearly indicated the damage was produced by a tornado. Some of the heaviest damage occurred on Old Cedar Bridge Road near the Cedar Bridge Tavern Historic Site. The tornado crossed Route 72 before moving through over a mile of inaccessible forest land. Tree damage was found again along Jones Road; from there the tornado moved into the Wells Mills area where the path of tree damage continued. A number of snapped trees and large limbs were found in the area of Wells Mills County Park. The tornado path appeared to end a few hundred yards east of this location. The degree of tree damage along the middle portion of the track was consistent with a higher end EF1 tornado.
The Plumstead Township tornado in Pennsylvania was rated EF-1 with an estimated peak windspeed of 90 mph; it traveled 2.6 miles and was about 70 yards wide. It touched down at 5:40 pm and only lasted 5 minutes. There were no fatalities or injuries reported with this tornado.
According to the National Weather Service and their storm survey report, tree damage began in the area of Bradshaw Road in Plumstead Township in Bucks County, where a few sizable limbs were downed and a couple of larger but weakened trees were snapped. The tornado then entered a cornfield near the intersection of Ferry Road and Point Pleasant Pike. Some degree of convergence was noted in a narrow path of downed corn, though it was not overly strong. In addition, some trees adjacent to and southeast of the cornfield were also damaged. The damage became more substantial with a clearer rotation signature observed in the area of Ridgeview Drive, where a number of trees were snapped, favoring higher elevation areas along a ridge line. The snapping and shearing of trees in that area and the nature of the debris field strongly indicated tornadic damage, with the magnitude of damage meriting an EF1 rating. The tornado continued southeastward through Carversville Road and to the area of Long Lane in Buckingham Township . Several residences along and near Long Lane sustained tree damage. The tornado impacted Maximuck’s Farm Market on Long Lane, where greenhouses sustained roof damage and some uplift of their frames. Some convergence was also noted in crop fields on the property. Just southeast of the greenhouses, a barn on the property was heavily damaged with a partial collapse of its walls. However, just beyond the barn, a large stretch of cornfields and a tree line beyond the cornfields were left untouched, indicating the tornado lifted near the damaged barn.
The central New Jersey tornado near Robbinsville was also an EF-0 with estimated peak winds of 105 mph; it traveled roughly 1.6 miles and had a path width of 100 yards. It touched down at 6:56pm in Robbinsville and lifted 9 minutes later. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries associated with this tornadic touch-down.
The Windsor-Robbinsville Township tornado began on Route 130 just south of the town of Windsor near the Assunpink Creek. A few hardwood trees were uprooted along the highway near the Chestnut Montessori. The building lost a portion of its roofing material and several other hardwood trees were uprooted or snapped just behind the property into a small wooded area. The tornado then continued in a somewhat transient and weak manner through a series of fields and tree lines. A few large tree branches were snapped off near a farm home on Windsor Road and a hardwood tree in a tree line was uprooted across the street. The sporadic tree damage continued along Perrineville Road where a large section of a tree was snapped off at another residence. The tornado then produced an area of intense convergent tree damage near the intersection of Perrineville Road and Voelbel Road where numerous trees were snapped or uprooted. The tornado ended just downstream from this intersection at a residence on Perrineville Road where a final tree was uprooted.
The EF-1 tornado around Kempton, Pennsylvania had an estimated peak wind of 90 mph; it traveled 2.8 miles and had a width of 90 yards. It touched down at 4:04 pm in Kempton in Berks County and wrapped up in Weisenberg Township in Lehigh County at 4:09 pm. There were no fatalities or injuries.
According to the National Weather Service storm survey report, the tornado touched down near Turkey Road in Kempton, Albany Township, Berks County, just west of the border with Lehigh County. About 15 trees were uprooted in the area of Turkey Road with a convergent damage pattern noted in multiple nearby corn fields. The path continued to between Kunkels Mill Road and Red Road near the far southern tip of Lynn Township in Lehigh County. Mostly minor crop and tree damage was observed in this area, but with a continued clear convergent pattern. A resident on Red Road filmed the tornado as it passed to his south. The tornado passed through an open field before crossing Rhoads Road, where tree and minor roofing damage were sustained. East of Rhoads Rd, a number of trees were snapped and uprooted as the tornado approached New Smithville Road. The tornado crossed Golden Key Road, uprooting a few more trees, before dissipating in a field prior to reaching Loch Valley Road in Weisenberg Township. The extent of tree damage both near the start of the path in Kempton and in the New Smithville Road area merited an EF1 rating.
While most tornadoes were surveyed by the Mount Holly office of the National Weather Service, there was one tornado that was surveyed by a New York-based team. Because a tornado that touched down in Verona, Essex County, was within the forecast area for the region managed by the Upton, New York office, they were the lead National Weather Service office to conduct the survey of this EF-0 tornado.
The Verona tornado had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph; it only traveled just over a third of a mile and had a width of only 50 yards. The small tornado lasted only three minutes and ended up producing no deaths or injuries.
The remaining two EF-0 tornadoes struck in Pennsylvania; the first hit Slatington, the other Northeast Philadelphia.
The short-lived Northeast Philadelphia tornado was only on the ground for a minute; it traveled less than a half mile and had a path of only 40 yards wide. With estimated peak winds of 80 mph, the tornado wasn’t responsible for any deaths nor injuries. Touching down in the Bustleton section of Northeast Philadelphia, the National Weather Service reported that damage was first observed near Grant Ave at the Grant Gardens apartment complex, where some minor loss of roofing material was noted and debris was tossed in a chaotic manner consistent with tornadic winds. The tornado moved east-southeast across Roosevelt Boulevard. Continued minor structural damage was noted along a narrow path, mainly consisting of sporadic losses of siding and insulation. Minor tree damage was also noted. One building also had ceiling tiles pulled downward with insulation removed in a car park area, a strong indicator of tornadic pressure gradient forces. Near Blue Glass Road, a couple of slightly larger trees had their trunks snapped, and winds of around 80 mph likely occurred in that area. The National Weather Service reports that based on RADAR data, this was an anticyclonic tornado. 98% of tornadoes are cyclonic, making this short-lived tornado a very rare one.
The last tornado of the 10 that struck on July 29 impacted Slatington in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. This tornado lasted two minutes, had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, traveled a path of 0.6 miles, and had a path width of 75 yards. As with the other weak tornadoes, there were no deaths or injuries associated with this brief touch-down.
According to the National Weather Service storm survey, a tornado touched down on the grounds of Northern Lehigh High School in Slatington. Several trees were snapped or uprooted at the high school, with most of the snapping occurring high up in the trees. A wooden dugout on the school`s baseball field lost its roof, and some unanchored metal bleachers were tossed. Damage was mostly blown in a similar west to east direction, but there was some evidence of convergence especially in tree damage in the area. The path continued almost straight west to east from the high school to the Slatington Airport. An airplane hangar door was blown out, and there was tree damage on the airport property. Damage became more unidirectional near the airport as the circulation likely gusted out. Little if any damage occurred east of the airport property, and that is where the tornado path is estimated to have ended.
To conduct these storm surveys, the National Weather Service worked with many local officials. In Pennsylvania, the Bucks County Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Bucks County Emergency Management Agency, and the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management assisted with the surveys. In New Jersey, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, Ocean County Emergency Management, Ocean County Parks Department, U.S. Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, and the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management all helped the National Weather Service with their storm surveying.