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Drone video, photos detail Warner tornado damage

  • Fallen trees and a damaged mail box are seen along Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Wind storm damage is seen along Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Debris is seen in piles on either side of a now-cleared driveway on Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

  • Wind storm damage is seen along Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • A highway department crew removes debris from Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • A highway department crew removes debris from Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • A tornado earlier this month carved a 36-mile path of destruction that damaged trees in Warner and several other towns. Michael Pezone / Monitor staff

  • A tornado earlier this month carved a 36-mile path of destruction that damaged trees in Warner and several other towns. Michael Pezone / Monitor staff

  • A tornado earlier this month carved a 36-mile path of destruction that damaged trees in Warner and several other towns. Michael Pezone / Monitor staff

  • Damage from a tornado earlier this month is seen along Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday. Michael Pezone / Monitor staff

  • Damage from a tornado earlier this month is seen along Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday. Michael Pezone / Monitor staff

  • Damage from a tornado earlier this month is seen along Couchtown Road in Warner on Tuesday. Michael Pezone / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The storm that swept through central New Hampshire 11 days ago, causing damage from Charlestown to Webster, has officially been classified as a tornado, although it wasn’t much by Midwestern standards.

While tornadoes aren’t terribly common in New Hampshire, this one arrived early and was stronger than normal.

The tornado caused damage along a 36-mile swath through seven towns, knocking down trees and mangling buildings in a path that averaged about 300 yards in width, said John Jensenius, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

A resident on Brown Road in Warner told the Monitor she heard a dull roar, bangs and felt her entire house shake about 9 p.m. Friday, May 4. The whole thing was over in less than five minutes, she said, but when she went outside afterward, she found toppled trees across her property – including eight 100-foot pines that had brought down the power line along the road.

Jensenius drove along the path to determine whether the storm was actually a tornado rather than a destructive thunderstorm. The key way to tell, he said: how trees fall.

“This is not only moving, going about 55 miles an hour in a north-of-east direction, it’s also spinning, creating a rotational motion. You can determine which way the storm is going because when you look along the path, the trees will fall from right to left across the path. That’s what we saw,” he said.

The strength of tornadoes is measured on a scale called EF, or Enhanced Fujita. Most tornadoes in New Hampshire are EF0, meaning they cause light damage. This storm was registered as EF1, or moderate damage.

Historically, New Hampshire has an average of 1.6 tornadoes a year. Very few are stronger than EF2, the category that causes considerable damage.

Most occur during the summer months of June, July and August, when there is more warm, moist air to form the thunderstorms with updraft and wind shear that can create a spinning, moving storm. Such conditions are prevalent in the flat regions of the central United States during spring and summer, which is why the so-called Tornado Alley exists in the Midwest.

Jensenius said it is very unusual to have a tornado in New Hampshire as early as the first week of May, although he doesn’t know whether there has been any change in historical patterns for the storms.

“It comes down to year to year; that really hasn’t changed over the years,” he said. “There’s no reason to believe that the month of July wouldn’t be the top month for them.”

The deadliest tornado in New England history occurred in June, 1953, around Worcester, Mass. It killed 93 people and was part of a three-day series of storms in central Massachusetts that caused widespread damage.

New Hampshire has had few fatal tornados. In 2008 an EF2 tornado in Deerfield killed Brenda Stevens, 57, who and died while protecting her 2-month-old grandson. In 1898 a tornado hit Hampton Beach, collapsing the roof of a skating rink and killing three people.

No injuries were reported in this month’s tornado.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect a 2008 fatal tornado in Deerfield.