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UPDATE: The NWS has determined that the damage we saw was from a macroburst (straight-line winds) and not a touch-down of the funnel cloud. Below are photos that we took during the survey yesterday. Local EMAs also participated.
I know, you're probably tired of hearing about the severe thunderstorm that hit near my house and AccuWeather HQ here in State College, PA on Friday. The reason I'm so obsessed with this storm is two-fold. Of course I was excited to witness and document the event, including photographing my first funnel cloud in Pennsylvania, after so many unfruitful storm intercepts here in the state. But more importantly this could be the biggest storm in this area in at least 10 years.
Yesterday MeteoMadness Man got a phone call from a local farmer who reported trees down west of town. Henry, Dale (another meteorologist from AccuWeather) and I went out to document the damage, and were quite impressed with the magnitude of it. It was also co-located in the same area where I videotaped the funnel cloud!
In this panoramic photo, there were areas of trees broken off, trees uprooted, and both. Other photos taken today are available here.
Dozens of trees were damaged over a 1.6 mile area; there was a definite path of damage, but it was sporadic. Light damage occurred another mile either side of that. In order to get an official call on whether or not the damage was from straight-line winds or a tornado, today we met the State College National Weather Service office and local EMA folks at the damage site to watch their official storm survey (I talked about NWS storm surveys and the technology they use last month). Results of that survey will be posted later tonight or tomorrow on the NWS website.
This got us thinking about the historical significance of a tornado here in Centre County. According to NCDC Storm Data, there have only been 10 twisters here since 1950 and only one tornado in Centre County since 1998 (Henry and I documented the damage from that one in 2007, but it was far out of town on the other side of the county). In the southern part of the county, there hasn't been a single tornado since at least 1996. (The map above from TornadoHistoryProject.com is zoomed in too far to see "the big one" - an F4 tornado that crossed the northern tip of the county in 1985 - all other storms pale in comparison to it).
Large hail is also very rare here. I can count the times I've seen hail as big as a pea here on one hand and I've only seen marble or bigger maybe once prior to this (I've lived here since 1997). Hail of golfball-size (1.75") or higher has only been reported 3 times since 1950 and not since 2002. If you assume my hail report goes in at 1.25" (after melting) then add two more occurrences, the most recent in 2007.
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