Winds Blasting New England Saturday Were Tornadoes

By Brian K. Sullivan | November 16, 2021

Three short-lived twisters swept across New England late Saturday, knocking down trees and leaving residents wondering if they live in a new tornado alley.

A wild weather front dropped three weak twisters across parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The same system knocked down trees throughout the region, including blocking a lane of Interstate 495 in Massachusetts. Earlier, the storm toppled a light pole in New York’s Greenwich Village, damaging a bus.

Stronger tornadoes have distinct damage patterns, though weaker ones look similar to a wind gust. Without radar backup or someone taking a photo, it would be hard to identify those weaker ones as tornadoes. Researchers haven’t yet found a correlation to climate change, said Matt Elliott, warning coordination meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center, an arm of the National Weather Service.

“It important that we try to understand these relationship as soon as we can,” Elliott said Monday in a phone interview.

Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell if the recent uptick in these storms is due to better identification through improvements in radar and widespread adoption of social media, or if climate change is playing a role, Elliott said.

“It’s a really complicated answer, there are a lot of things going on at the same time,” Elliott said. “Forecasters are able to identify these lower-end tornadoes that they would never in the past been able to see.”

The U.S. Northeast has had an active year for tornadoes, with two others reported in southern New England through July. There have been numerous reports of twisters in the region in recent years, including two that touched down in central Massachusetts in February 2017.

About the photo: People walk through heavy rain during a thunderstorm in New York City on Nov. 13, 2021.

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