Tornadoes aren't something most people think about, but they can happen. In fact, they are one of the most common weather events in the United States.
Tornadoes range in strength from weak EF-0 tornadoes to EF-2 twisters, which can cause serious damage. Since 1950, Vermont has recorded 46 confirmed tornadoes.
Tornadoes are rare in Vermont, compared to the southern and central Great Plains, which is known as “Tornado Alley.” However, there have been a few tornadoes in the Green Mountain state this year, including one that snuck through Addison County on Friday.
The tornado touched down on Painter Road in Middlebury, causing significant damage to four homes and tree damage. The tornado lasted five minutes and winds reached 110 miles per hour.
According to Meteorologist Conor Lahiff with the National Weather Service, tornadoes are not common in Vermont. In fact, there have been only 46 reported tornadoes in the state since 1950.
This week’s storms brought a rare twister to Middlebury, but the tornado lasted only five minutes and only hit 75 yards wide maximum. It is believed the tornado was a brief EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, a rating used to describe a twister’s intensity.
Wind storms can damage homes and businesses, cut off access to transportation and utilities, disrupt air quality, and contaminate water and crops. Vermont is a particularly vulnerable state because of its unique western slope climate zone.
The ferocious winds that ripped through the state Friday wreaked havoc on power systems as well, knocking tens of thousands of households offline. Electricity providers warned that it could take several days to restore service.
A 70-mile-per-hour wind gust clocked at Burlington's weather station on Friday was a tie for the second-highest in recorded history. The high winds were accompanied by rain that was likely to change to snow later in the day.
A storm that swept through the state on Friday is expected to bring strong winds, rain and plunging temperatures. Officials are urging Vermonters to check on neighbors who might be at risk, including those with low-energy heat, generators and fuel tanks.
When a winter storm hits the Northeast, it can leave roads impassible, close airports, halt the delivery of goods and services, and leave thousands without power for days. While there are many different kinds of winter storms, they fall into three categories: Blizzards, Ice Storms, and Nor'easters.
Blizzards tend to feature 35 mph winds and considerable snow accumulation. They can produce dangerously low visibilities, making driving hazardous.
Ice Storms feature freezing rain or sleet instead of snow, but they can still cause widespread power outages and damage to trees and other infrastructure. They can also cause flooding and ice jams.
When a winter storm hit Vermont, it can cause significant damage and inconvenience for people in the area. It can be especially difficult for rural residents, as snow clearing and power restoration may take more time than in urban areas.
Vermont's climate is prone to a wide range of extreme weather events, including flooding, snowstorms, thunderstorms, drought, tornadoes and temperature extremes. These events can cause damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure, as well as impede travel.
Flooding is particularly damaging to the state's economy and health. It can result in significant economic losses, and can be especially devastating for rural Vermont.
Severe storms are also a major threat to Vermont's electricity system. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused 117,000 power outages affecting a third of the state.
During that storm, Vermont's electric companies had to scramble to restore service to their members. It's an issue that will be front and center during this upcoming winter storm, which is expected to hit the state Friday.
Stay up-to-date on severe weather alerts for your area with the VT-ALERT app and website. This tool allows you to customize your alerts and receive them on your phone, work or home phone, SMS/TEXT, e-mail or TDD device.