Support Our Work

Tornado Hits Near Boston As Cold Air Invades U.S. Again

A tornado touched down in Revere, Mass., just north of Boston, Monday morning, an unusual though far from unprecedented event in the New England state that was the product of yet another burst of polar air dipping down over the eastern U.S.

Plenty of instagrammers and tweeters snapped pictures of the damage wrought by the storm, as well as the floods caused by the torrential rains it unleashed.

A fairly intense low-pressure system tracking across the Northeast sent thunder and lightning crashing across the skies over New York and surrounding areas Sunday night, moving into New England Monday morning. An area of storms that accompanied the cyclone dropped torrential rains at rates of 1.5 to 2 inches per hour in the Boston area, causing flash floods that sent water over the hoods of cars on some streets.

The storm also spawned a short-lived tornado that was spotted on radar and was thought to have touched down at 9:34 a.m. ET. Photos from residents making the rounds on Twitter showed downed trees and power lines, damaged roofs and other indications of the suspected tornado’s winds.

“Basically there’s a lot of damage in and around Revere that would indicate that a tornado touched down in the area,” said Benjamin Sipprell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Boston.

A meteorologist from the office had already been dispatched to look at the damage and confirm whether or not a tornado touched down and, if so, to estimate its strength and measure how wide it was and how long it was on the ground for.

New England doesn’t typically see much tornado activity, with Massachusetts averaging only one confirmed tornado a year. If confirmed, this will be the state’s first tornado of 2014, according to tornado records from the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. The state recorded two tornadoes in 2013. In 2011, Massachusetts had four recorded tornadoes, including an EF-3 that killed three people.

That tornado was unusually strong and long-lived for the region, which typically sees weaker tornadoes that touch down for a short period of time before being absorbed back into their parent cloud.

There’s a chance for more thunderstorms again later in the afternoon as the low pressure system stalls, Sipprell, told Climate Central. “We’re not out of the woods yet for the rest of today,” he said.

Also under the gun for severe storms are portions of the Southeast in swath from coastal Alabama up to the coast of North Carolina. The storms could be whipped up as a cold front pushed unusually far south for this time of year by yet another bout of cold air from over Canada comes diving down over the eastern U.S. Typically the Northern Plains are where the storm action is this time of year, but they are under cool, dry conditions this week.

“It does seem like we’re in this repetitive pattern,” said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service. As to why we keep seeing this pattern, though, Terry told Climate Central: “I don’t know why we keep seeing it, but we do keep seeing it.”

The pattern has kept any real heat waves from developing anywhere in the country, especially unusual for this time of year, which is normally the hottest point of summer for much of the nation.

“We’re in the heart of that hottest normal time of the year and it’s anything but that,” Terry said.

Whether this pattern will continue through the rest of the summer, forecasters can’t say, Terry said, as they can only reliably forecast about 10 days out. But the beginning of August does look to be cooler-than-normal for many places, he said.

In general, 2014 has been a relatively cool year for the eastern U.S.; the first four months of the year were the coldest since 1993, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though the period was only the 46 coldest in the 120-year record. The cold in the East -- driven in part by repeated Polar Vortex events -- has been somewhat balanced out by the warm West, including California, which saw its warmest first six months to a year on record this year.

Global warming blunts the impact of these cold air events,  as the background warming reduces the chances of seeing record lows and increases the chances of record highs.

You May Also Like
Driven by Ocean Heat, World Sets Mark for Hottest June
Picture This: Lucky Lightning Photo & Crazy Bug Swarm 
Celebrate NASA Satellite’s Birthday With 5 Amazing Pics 
Shifting Cities: 1,001 Blistering Future Summers