On Tuesday, a rare tornado warning was issued in central New Jersey as a strong line of thunderstorms with powerful winds ripped through the region.
The event caused significant damage, including trees being ripped out of the ground in Pennington and West Windsor, which resulted in structural damage to houses and cars.
While the warning was issued for parts of Mercer, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties, some strong thunderstorm cells continued moving through the region even after the warning was canceled.
Tornadoes are not common in New Jersey, but they occur, on average, about twice per year.
Some of the most notable tornadoes in New Jersey’s history occurred in 1989 when an F4 tornado hit parts of Somerset and Morris counties, causing millions of dollars in damage and injuring 189 people.
Another significant tornado outbreak occurred in 1973 when 26 tornadoes hit New Jersey in a single day.
“While tornadoes are not common in New Jersey, they can happen, and it’s important to take them seriously,” according to environmentalist Lisa McCormick, who said that climate change may be contributing to an increase in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, including tornadoes. “It’s crucial to have a plan in place and know what to do if a tornado warning is issued.”
McCormick said most New Jersey twisters are relatively weak, short-lived, and travel from hundreds of yards to several miles.
“There have been nearly a dozen tornadoes that tracked more than ten miles,” McCormick said. “Some have caused significant injuries and, rarely, fatalities. There has been only one tornado-related death since 1950 but a twister in 1835 killed five people in New Brunswick.”
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service plan to visit parts of Mercer County on Wednesday to investigate whether a tornado touched down. A survey team will inspect the damage near West Windsor and Lawrenceville to determine if there’s evidence that a twister was responsible or if the damage was caused by straight-line thunderstorm winds.
The agency said it expects to announce its findings by 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
This winter has brought multiple rounds of devastating severe weather to the southeastern U.S., with more than 200 reported tornadoes and 14 fatalities.
Significant damage could be seen in part of Mercer County.
Hail and high winds caused extensive damage to the condominium complex of Lawrence Square Village, commercial buildings and several vehicles.
Carol Jefferson, who lives in the complex, said it only took a minute for the storm to do the damage.
“All of a sudden you’d hear more crashing and you’re think, ‘Oh my God, what could it be now?'” Jefferson said. “That’s when the great, big, huge 40-year-old trees are either being snapped in half or uprooted.”
Police Chief Christopher Longo, of the Lawrence Township Police Department, shared footage of the significant damage at the Lawrence Square Village housing development and urged residents who have been displaced to head to a nearby command post for help.
The community is coming together to support those affected by the storm, and many are grateful that no serious injuries were reported.
Any resident who wishes to report property damage to vehicles as a result of the storm, should call the Lawrence Township Police non-emergency line at 609-896-1111, according to Londo.
As a reminder, Longo said never attempt to remove tree limbs or other debris from power lines. Stay away from areas that have sustained storm damage as hazards are not always visible.