Deadly and destructive Delaware tornado was state’s widest on record

Deadly and destructive Delaware tornado was state’s widest on record

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The tornado that left one person dead and blazed a 14-mile path of destruction through Bridgeville and Ellendale, Del., on Saturday was the state’s widest twister on record and one of its two strongest, the National Weather Service said in a survey of published damages. Monday. Spawned by the same system that produced damaging winds above 60 mph in the D.C. area Saturday night, it was one of dozens of tornadoes across the Mid-Atlantic, South and Midwest over the past week.

At 700 yards wide, the tornado was 200 yards wider than the previous two widest ones. It was rated an EF-3 on the 0-to-5 scale used for tornado intensity, with maximum estimated winds of 140 mph. The only other Delaware tornado to receive such a high rating occurred in Newcastle, south of Wilmington, on April 28, 1961. That storm was rated F3 on an earlier version of the tornado intensity scale. The previous two tornado-related deaths in Delaware occurred in an F2 tornado on July 21, 1983, near Hartley in Kent County.

Some of the damage from the EF3 tornado in Delaware
The first image was a poorly constructed house which was given an EF2 DI while the second image was a well constructed two story house where the fatality occurred and was given an EF3 rating

— Jayden Keener (@KeenerJayden) April 3, 2023

Other tornadoes confirmed in the Mid-Atlantic on Friday and Saturday include one in Cecil County, Md., one in Bucks County, Pa., and four in New Jersey.

The tornado started at 5:59 p.m. near the intersection of Polk and Dublin Hill roads in northwest Bridgeville south of Route 404, which drivers from the DC and Baltimore areas may recognize as an alternative to Route 50 to get to Delaware. and the beaches of Maryland. The tornado lasted for 20 minutes, until 6:19 p.m., as it tracked east and northeast of Ellendale.

I had a busy evening on Saturday. Tornado passing near Bridgeville Delaware at 6pm. A fatality. Video by Brian Swain.

— Dan Satterfield (@wildweatherdan) April 2, 2023

Along the way it destroyed barns, toppled power poles, uprooted or uprooted many trees, toppled a two-story house, blew many houses off their foundations, overturned several semi-trailers, and scattered debris several hundred yards. Falling trees on homes caused significant damage and one home had its chimney removed.

The tornado reached peak wind intensity after causing significant damage to a Delaware Department of Transportation facility, including the collapse of an exterior wall and a large portion of a roof. Several garage doors were blown off and the roof of a building that stores salt was completely destroyed. The siding material was found embedded in the ground near where a weather station measured a wind gust of 98 mph.

A review of radar images shows the storm started as a shower south of Culpeper, Va., around 3:10 p.m., organized into an area of ​​thunderstorms that passed south of the D.C. belt around 4:10 p.m., reached East coast around. 5:10 p.m., and began entering Delaware around 5:40 p.m. before producing a tornado at 5:59 p.m.

The National Weather Service initially issued a tornado warning for northwest Sussex County and south-central Kent County, including Bridgeville and Ellendale, at 6:01 p.m. based on radar-detected rotation. The warning stated that “flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. There will be damage to roofs, windows and vehicles. Tree damage is likely.”

An update from the Weather Service at 6:04 p.m. said a confirmed tornado was near Bridgeville. Another update at 6:14 pm said the tornado was over Ellendale.

The weather service noted that “Historically, Delaware has gone many years without a single tornado, only to have multiple occur in a short period of time … the most in one year were 6 in 1992 and 2020.”

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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