Rare tornado touches down in Puerto Rico, jolts residents
Severe weather erupted across the island on Sunday, causing damage and prompting weather officials to give the twister -- the first to hit Puerto Rico in about three years -- an EF1 rating.
Severe weather led to a tornado touching down on the island. This is the first time Puerto Rico has had a tornado in about three years.
Residents in northern Puerto Rico witnessed a rare tornado sweep across the city of Arecibo on Sunday as severe thunderstorms rattled the island during the afternoon hours.
Several views of the swirling vortex emerged across social media from locals who captured footage of the flying debris and downed palm tree fronds.
After crews surveyed the damage on Sunday, forecasters with the National Weather Service office in the capital city of San Juan gave the twister a preliminary rating of an EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, defined by winds ranging between 86 and 110 mph. Further damage assessments will continue to compile more information about the event and the final rating of the tornado may change.
"Tornadoes are a rarity in Puerto Rico. The island is far more prone to hurricanes, having been severely impacted by storms such as Maria and Irma in 2017," stated AccuWeather Meteorologist Thomas Geiger.
GOES-East Geostationary Lightning Mapper/RAMMB CIRA displaying the lightning associated with the severe thunderstorms that occurred over northern Puerto Rico on Sunday, May 1, 2022. (NOAA/GOES-EAST)
On average, the island is impacted by a tropical cyclone once every year or two. The last recorded tornadic event in Puerto Rico was in September of 2019.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's storm events database, there have been a total of 21 confirmed tornadoes that occurred in Puerto Rico since 1950. There has never been a tornado with an intensity of EF2, defined by winds ranging from 111 to 135 mph or greater, in Puerto Rico's recorded history. The tornado on Sunday was the first one ever recorded to impact the city of Arecibo.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said on late Sunday afternoon that no injuries had been reported.
Why are tornadoes such a rarity for Puerto Rico?
"Tornadoes need near-perfect conditions to form, including energy and rotating winds along with a few other conditions. While this occurs more commonly in the United States, it is difficult to get the perfect ingredients on an island like Puerto Rico," explained Geiger.
Strong thunderstorms developed across the island on Sunday, which produced heavy rains and gusty winds. The storms prompted the NWS to issue special weather statements for municipalities along the north-central coast, including Arecibo, Barceloneta and Manati.
Following the storm's aftermath, there were multiple reports of moderate building and roof damage, mangled fences and downed utility poles across the Arecibo area.
More than 300 customers were still without power in Arecibo by early Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.
The Puerto Rico Fire Department responded to the Thermo King Factory in Arecibo after the tornado struck and left the factory's roof partially damaged. Workers were evacuated after they reported the strong smell of gasoline.
Emergency crews used gas monitoring devices on the scene to detect a leak in an Argon tank on the property. However, upon further inspection, all other tanks were found to be in good condition, with valves closed as a safety measure. Firefighters Edwin Declet and Joel Méndez conducted reconnaissance work to monitor the scene for any additional chemical leaks.
For the latest weather news, check back on AccuWeather.com. Watch the AccuWeather Network on DIRECTV, Frontier, Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios. AccuWeather Now is now available on your preferred streaming platform.Report a Typo