CHARLESTOWN, N.H. (WCAX) – The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado did, in fact, touch down in North Charlestown, New Hampshire.
Officials say the wind speeds from the tornado topped out at 90 mph, which toppled trees along Route 12 and took down power lines.
Witnesses who live in the area say the tornado sounded like a freight train rolling down the road. Others did not immediately comprehend what was going on.
“My wife was closing the windows and said, ‘Look at those funny clouds.’ And I said, ‘The ones going up like smoke?’ She goes, ‘Yeah,’ and then said, ‘And they are twirling like in a circle.’ So I got up to look at them and we both decided that looks like a tornado,” said Jim Graff of North Charlestown.
Trees were also toppled on some properties. We saw one home that received minor damage. No injuries have been reported.
Crews were out Tuesday morning repairing the downed power lines.
Our Jess Langlois spoke with Justin Arnott from the National Weather Service, who helped oversee the tornado damage survey process.
Now we have a better idea of the path the storm took through our region. Around 6:20 p.m. Monday, a severe thunderstorm produced a tornado in the town of Charlestown just east of the Connecticut River. We now have confirmation from the NWS that this was an EF1 tornado.
Tornadoes aren’t common in our region of northern New England but they do happen.
New Hampshire averages one or two weak tornadoes per year. It’s been just over four years since New Hampshire’s last EF1 tornado, which occurred on May 4, 2018, and also happened to start in Charlestown.
It is worth noting that topography can enhance the potential for tornadoes and that tornadoes are more common in the Upper Valley because of this compared to other parts of our area.
Because we don’t have ground observations of wind speeds during tornadoes, scientists rely on damage to trees and structures to estimate how strong the winds were.
The NWS sends out a damage survey team to the scene, and based on what they see, they will rate a tornado on the enhanced Fujita scale, with EF0 being the weakest and EF5 being the most extreme.
While the team is doing their damage survey, they will also determine the start and endpoints of the tornado’s path and how wide it was.
In this case, the team found mainly EF0 damage with pockets of EF1 damage consistent with maximum winds of 90 mph and an overall EF1 rating.
Of course, in our region, we don’t have the warning siren infrastructure that the Midwest does, but in terms of issuing tornado warnings and catching tornadoes on radar, there are challenges there, too. Tornadoes in New England are often weak, spin up quickly and don’t last long.
Monday’s tornado was particularly challenging because it happened far away from any radar site, and the further away you are from radar, the harder it is to see what’s happening on the ground and catch things like tornadoes.
“So when we’re looking at a storm out in that part of the state, we’re looking up over 10,000 feet into the storm. A lot of that storm is below 10,000 feet, and so knowing exactly what happens in those low levels is really difficult, and why we appreciate the reports that we receive on a daily basis from spotters,” Arnott said.
Arnott says the NWS does receive more tornado reports now thanks to smartphones and easy access to cameras, but we can’t say definitively whether the number of tornadoes is increasing or we are just getting better at catching them.
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