Although tornadoes are more common in the Midwest and Southern United States, New York does get tornadoes from time to time.
Upstate, the peak tornado season is in May and June. This is because during these months the Jet Stream, a band of air currents several miles high, moves north over the area.
Tornadoes are violent thunderstorms that typically manifest as a large spinning cloud of wind that can reach speeds up to 300 miles per hour. When they touch down, tornadoes can demolish anything in their path, including buildings and vehicles.
In New York, the risk of tornadoes can be heightened by a number of factors, including the state’s topography and population density. Weather and climate change are also believed to play a role in the increased frequency of tornadoes across the country.
The main health hazard of tornadoes is physical injury. When flying debris hits a person, it can cause serious injuries to the head and neck.
If you see or hear signs that a tornado is coming, get to a safe place and listen to warnings. You can find updated information on local news and weather services. You should also prepare a disaster supplies kit, which includes items such as water, food, and candles.
Tornadoes are a common threat in Upstate New York, though they’re not as frequent as tornadoes in the Midwest and the South. They can occur at any time during the year, and are rated on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which ranges from EF-0 to EF-5 (incredible damage with wind gusts of 261 to 312 miles per hour).
There have been several confirmed tornadoes in Upstate New York this year. During the summer, a tornado swept through Saugerties in Ulster County and an EF-0 hit Walton near Binghamton.
It also caused extensive damage in Smithfield, a rural area between Utica and Syracuse. It lasted a few minutes and traveled about 10 miles.
Winter storms are another concern for New Yorkers, especially the northern and western parts of the state. Typically, it’s heavy snow that causes the most damage, but it can also include hurricane-force winds and even a blizzard.
Tornadoes aren't usually a frequent occurrence in New York, but this year the region has seen a few. Those storms have produced widespread straight-line wind damage and knocked down trees.
The most recent tornado to hit the East End happened on Saturday. It was one of six twisters that ripped through Long Island during a freak storm that also spawned three tornadoes in Connecticut.
The storm that spawned the six tornadoes in Long Island and the three in Connecticut brought strong winds, heavy rains and hail. The strongest of the six, an EF-1 tornado, blew through Shirley and Manorville.
Tornadoes have been a fearful reminder of nature’s fury across the state since at least 1998, when one ripped through Mechanicville and Stillwater in Rensselaer County. The Capital Region’s most recent tornado came in 2014, when a massive tornado hit Duanesburg and Cranesville, near Amsterdam.
Weather experts say the number of severe storms like tornadoes is expected to increase in New York due to climate change. But it is unclear if that will cause more frequent, powerful tornadoes in the state.
During May and June, the Jet Stream is moving north over New York, which means the area is prone to intense thunderstorms. And because of the Jet Stream’s movement, it is also more likely to produce wind shear, or sharp variations in wind speed over a region.
During Tuesday’s storms, the National Weather Service reported three tornadoes in upstate New York. The worst devastation was in Smithfield, a rural community between Utica and Syracuse where four people were killed. The other two tornadoes were in Deerfield and Lowville, both of which are about 55 miles north of Utica.