Rare EF2 tornado confirmed after heavy damage in New Jersey
The tornado struck the central part of the state late Tuesday afternoon with powerful winds ripping roofs off homes and downing trees and power lines.
The damage displaced 60 people from their homes.
The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down in central New Jersey late Tuesday afternoon as the rush-hour commute was getting underway.
A survey team from the NWS' Mount Holly, New Jersey, office assessed the storm damage and determined that the twister was EF2 strength with peak winds of 115 mph as it passed in the Lawrence Township area of Mercer County, northeast of Trenton, NWS officials said Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday's tornado was a rare February event for the state, leaving behind heavy damage to homes and other structures, making some uninhabitable in Lawrence and Hamilton townships, according to authorities. There were no reports of injuries.
At 3:41 p.m. EST Tuesday, the NWS in Mount Holly reported a radar-indicated tornado in the Hamilton Square, Twin Rivers and Highstown areas of the county, just north of Trenton. The NWS had issued a tornado warning at 3:41 p.m. EST for those locations through 4:15 p.m.
At the same time, a tornado debris signature appeared on radar near Lawrence Township.
Police Chief Christopher Longo, of the Lawrence Township Police Department, shared footage of the significant damage at the Lawrence Square Village housing development that showed large trees uprooted, piles of branches and torn off building pieces scattered across roads and yards. Tuesday night he urged residents who had been displaced to head to a nearby command post for help. Jack Oakley, the township's fire and emergency services chief, told AccuWeather Prime Tuesday evening that about 27 housing units were uninhabitable due to the damage.
Lawrence Township Police Chief Christopher Longo addressed residents via social media on Feb. 21 after a possible tornado brought damage to a residential area in the community.
"It's pretty shocking to go for a walk and see these trees just snapped off," resident Liz Marshall told AccuWeather's Jillian Angeline on the scene in Lawrence Square Village.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said local officials were getting "reports from around the county of wind-related damage, downed trees and building damage. Our Mercer County road crews are en route to assist in local clean-ups." Hughes asked resident to "please stay off the roadways if possible."
In nearby Princeton Junction, photos and videos of damage were captured, with numerous downed trees and power lines and large debris littering neighborhoods. Heavy wind damage was also reported in the area of West Windsor, with parts of roofs torn off homes and buildings, trees uprooted and cars damaged.
The sky over Hamilton Township was an ominous scene as the severe storm passed through the area:
Due to the storm damage, U.S. Route 1 was closed in both directions Tuesday afternoon in the area of the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrenceville.
Tuesday's twister is just the fifth February tornado on record for New Jersey and the first since 1999. Tuesday's tornado warning was the second such warning in February for the state, the first being in 2000.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist David Dombek noted that a tornado would be "extremely unusual" for this time of the year since twisters are relatively rare in the state, even during spring and summer months.
AccuWeather radar showing a supercell thunderstorm with a possible tornado passing through parts of central New Jersey late Tuesday afternoon, Feb.. 21, 2023.
Contributing to the severe weather was an "unstable atmosphere" with a rapid drop-off in temperatures from the ground to several thousand feet in the air, Dombek explained. Those conditions combined with "some pretty strong winds" were able to transfer down to the ground.
The suspected tornado was not the only severe weather seen in New Jersey Tuesday, as a waterspout was spotted near the borough of Sea Girt less than an hour after the suspected tornado touchdown. Various reports of hail were also seen throughout the state.
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