Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
Wild Weather Wallops the Tri-State Area
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Auntie Em, take note.
There were no twisters, but the band of thunderstorms that barreled from Bucks County, Pa., across New Jersey and up into the Hudson Valley packed wind speeds that ranged from 60 to 80 mph, downing power lines, tearing up trees and leaving a path of destruction that some meteorologists say is becoming all too common in the summer season.
“Other than it produced 80-mph winds, it’s a typical severe weather day that we get in the summertime in this area,” said Leigh Robertson, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service from the Mount Holly, N.J., monitoring station.
Those wind speeds are an estimate based on radar readings and reports of damage in the area, particularly in Freehold, N.J., where local officials declared a state of emergency to speed debris removal and power outage repairs.
Robertson said the storm that caused the most damage was a “supercell” characterized by high-winds and capable of producing the rotation found in tornadoes.
“But this one was straight-line winds,” Robertson said. Fortunately, he said there was no evidence of tornadic activity in this storm.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t damage.
Mary Goepfert of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management said officials in Freehold Borough used their state of emergency declaration to impose a strict curfew from dusk to dawn on Sunday night.
In New York state, portions of Orange County took the brunt of the storm’s impact. A stream near Glenwood Park swelled over its banks and caused brief flash flooding conditions for nearby Union Avenue, according to reports to the National Weather Service.
A farmers' market in Pine Bush also took a direct hit.
“I thought we were in Kansas because tents would not blow over, they sort of lifted straight up,” said Lynn Inglima, who barely saved the tent and table where she was selling homemade soap on Saturday when the sky darkened and the winds began to swirl.
She said signs of the storm’s power are visible throughout the region.
“The tops are snapped off of trees, bleachers in a ball field are over, power lines are hanging by a thread,” Inglima said.
The wet weather may seem like good news for the region, where rain levels have been below average according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which releases weekly assessments of national drought conditions every Thursday.
Though no portion of this region suffered drought conditions, it’s reported to be abnormally dry because of low rain levels.
Unfortunately, weather experts say heavy storms provide little relief, since the rain falls so fast and runs off before it’s absorbed into the ground.
“The fact that it was heavy rainfall and it was running off so much probably isn’t going to provide a significant amount of relief,” said David Stark, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We need like a steady, longer-term rain event.”