The remnants of Ida not only caused a flooding disaster around New York. They also spawned numerous destructive tornadoes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
That tornado, which the National Weather Service described as “large and extremely dangerous,” struck Burlington County, N.J., just after 7 p.m.; video emerging on social media depicted a Great Plains-style monstrous tornado, a furious whirlwind adorned with armlike vortices protruding horizontally outward. Those tentacle-like tendrils accompany only the strongest tornadoes; debris was lifted to roughly 20,000 feet, ordinarily an indicator of winds 150 mph or greater.
The scene resembled the April 27, 2011, tornado that struck Cullman, Ala., amid a high-end outbreak.
“[I haven’t seen anything like that] in the time I’ve been here,” said Nick Carr, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J. “Even those who have been here a really long time haven’t seen stuff like that.”
Carr’s team rated the Burlington County Tornado, which continued into Bristol, Pa., an EF-1 with peak winds up to 90 mph.
The most significant tornado, a massive wedge, occurred in Mullica Hill, N.J., around 6:30 p.m. Skies turned pitch black as the wide, destructive twister breezed through.
On Thursday afternoon, the Weather Service assigned the twister an EF-3 rating on the 0 to 5 scale for tornado intensity, the strongest to hit New Jersey in 31 years.
Carr explained that both tornadoes formed from the same rotating supercell thunderstorm, but it was unclear whether two distinct tornadoes formed or whether it was one tornado that skipped along.
“We’re trying to make sure it was a separate circulation farther north and not one longer-track tornado,” he said. “There will likely be at least a second one.”
Doppler radar even indicated a “three-body scatter spike,” or a jagged strip of pixels that results from debris bouncing the radar signal back to the ground and then to the radar. That tricks the radar into plotting what on the map resembles precipitation. Three-body scatter spikes usually occur only when significant debris is present in the atmosphere.
Bucks County in Pennsylvania, which borders New Jersey, was simultaneously under tornado and flash flood emergencies as disastrous flooding ensued across parts of New Jersey, the Tri-State area and the Northeast.
On Thursday afternoon, the Weather Service in Mount Holly said it had confirmed 7 tornadoes in its coverage area which includes southeast Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and the northern Delmarva Peninsula. It found four tornadoes had touched down in Pennsylvania, including three in Bucks County and one in Montgomery County. The Montgomery County tornado was rated an EF-2, with winds up to 130 mph. It also found a weak EF-0 tornado swept through Princeton, N.J.
An additional tornado warning was issued in Manhattan and the Bronx overnight as a strong line of thunderstorms plowed through while dumping copious rainfall. No tornado was confirmed there.
More warnings were issued around midnight for Cape Cod, where survey crews are reviewing debris for a potential tornado touchdown.
In Maryland, the Weather Service received reports of four tornadoes, the most notable being the one that tore through the area between Edgewater and Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, which it rated an EF-2.
The twister damaged scores of structures, including 24 that were condemned in Annapolis, which is under a state of emergency.
Another tornado was reported in eastern Baltimore County, rated EF-0.
On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a confirmed tornado, rated EF-0, tore through Dorchester County near the town of Hurlock, about 10 miles northeast of Cambridge, which was captured on social media.
The twisters were set into motion by the spin from Ida’s remnant circulation but intensified by the temperature contrast as the system merged with a cold front over the Eastern United States. Ahead of the cold front, warm, humid air surged up the East Coast, creating a very unstable atmosphere. As the cold front and Ida’s remnants encountered the volatile environment, multiple rotating thunderstorms erupted.
It has been a remarkably busy year for tornadoes in the Northeast. On July 29, a swarm of 26 tornadoes swept through the region, including five in New Jersey and 13 in Pennsylvania. One of the twisters along the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border warranted a rare “particularly dangerous situation” tornado warning and leveled a car dealership. It was rated an EF-3 on the 0-to-5 scale for intensity.