7 tornados now confirmed in Pa. and N.J., weather service says

Tornado in Bucks County July 29, 2021

Debris is scattered in the Penn Valley Terrace trailer park after a tornado hit in Trevose, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, July 29, 2021. Five people were injured Thursday when a building at a Bensalem auto dealership was destroyed by severe weather, authorities said. The National Weather Service confirmed two tornados touched down in Bucks County, sending trees falling and debris flying.Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

UPDATE: Lehigh County tornado confirmed, the 8th across Pa. and N.J. on Thursday

The National Weather Service is continuing to assess an outbreak of seven tornados confirmed Thursday across eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The most powerful of those recorded was an EF3, toward the upper range of the Enhanced Fujita Scale used to gauge tornados’ destructive power, the weather service says from its Philadelphia region forecast office in Mount Holly, New Jersey. It struck the Bensalem/Trevose area in Bucks County, with peak winds of up to 140 mph, leaving behind its most intense destruction at car dealerships and an adjacent mobile home park. At least five people were injured.

This is the first EF3 ever recorded in Bucks County, though an F3 tornado on the previously used Fujita Scale struck the county on May 28, 1896, according to the weather service. Pennsylvania last saw an F3/EF3 tornado July 17, 2004. Across the Mount Holly office’s forecast area in Pennsylvania, previous tornados of this magnitude struck in July 1994 in Limerick, Montgomery County, and May 1998 in Lyons, Berks County.

Meteorologists began using the Enhanced Fujita Scale Feb. 1, 2007, to assign a tornado a rating based on estimated wind speeds and related damage.

The weather service says: “When tornado-related damage is surveyed, it is compared to a list of Damage Indicators (DIs) and Degrees of Damage (DoD) which help estimate better the range of wind speeds the tornado likely produced. From that, a rating (from EF0 to EF5) is assigned. The EF Scale was revised from the original Fujita Scale to reflect better examinations of tornado damage surveys so as to align wind speeds more closely with associated storm damage. The new scale has to do with how most structures are designed.”

Five survey teams from the Mount Holly office have been investigating the damage resulting from several severe thunderstorms on Thursday, and the National Weather Service said it planned to release additional details on Saturday for each of the confirmed tornados, including the length and width of their paths.

The weather service has not confirmed a tornado was to blame for damage from Thursday’s storm in Weisenberg Township and Washington Township, Lehigh County.

Trees, wires down across Lehigh County following tornado warnings

Forestry workers with Lehigh County Task Force 99 clear tree debris from the D&L Trail outside Slatington on Thursday, July 29, 2021.Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com

The other tornados confirmed Thursday are as follows, according to the weather service:

  • “EF2 tornado in Waretown, NJ to Long Beach Township, NJ (Ocean County) with peak winds up to 115 mph. The EF2 damage was found in the High Bar Harbor area of Long Beach Island.
  • “EF2 tornado near New Hope, PA (Bucks County) then across the Delaware River into Mercer County toward the Ewing, NJ area with peak winds up to 115 mph.
  • “EF1 tornado in the Plumstead Township, PA (Bucks County) area with peak winds up to 90 mph.
  • “EF1 tornado in the Cedar Bridge, NJ area of Barnegat Township (Ocean County) with peak winds 100-105 mph.
  • “EF1 tornado in Windsor, NJ (Mercer County) with peak winds up to 105 mph.
  • “EF0 tornado in Northeast Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia County) near the intersection of Grant Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard with peak winds of 60-80 mph.”

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Kurt Bresswein may be reached at kbresswein@lehighvalleylive.com.