Worst Tornadoes in New Jersey: History and Impacts

May 28, 2024

New Jersey, while not traditionally associated with tornadoes, has nonetheless experienced its share of these destructive windstorms over the decades. Understanding the frequency, intensity, and impact of tornadoes in the state is crucial for preparedness and public safety.

Indiana Governor, National Guard respond to tornado destruction
"Indiana Governor, National Guard respond to tornado destruction [Image 6 of 24]" by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

General Statistics

Since 1950, New Jersey has recorded at least 182 confirmed tornadoes, averaging about three tornadoes each year. Interestingly, tornadoes have been documented in every month except December and January, highlighting the potential for year-round tornado activity.

Noteworthy Events

Most Active Year

The year 1989 stands out as the most active in New Jersey's tornado history, with 19 confirmed tornadoes.

Longest Tracked Tornado

In 1958, an F2 tornado, which affected Camden and Ocean counties, holds the record for the longest path at 48.5 miles.

St Louis Tornado Destruction, September 1927
"St Louis Tornado Destruction, September 1927" by StevenM_61 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Tornado Intensity

The majority of New Jersey's tornadoes are weak and short-lived. However, there have been exceptions:

Category Breakdown

  • Five tornadoes have reached F3 or EF3 intensity since 1950, with the most recent occurrence in 2021.

Deadly Tornadoes

Notable deadly tornadoes include:

  • An 1835 tornado in New Brunswick causing five deaths.
  • A 1941 tornado in Gloucester County resulting in one death.
  • A 2003 tornado in Burlington County that killed one person by flinging a tree limb onto three cars.

Climatology Overview

On average, New Jersey experiences three tornadoes per year. Some years, such as 2018, recorded no tornadoes at all. Additionally, underreporting in less populated regions like the New Jersey Pine Barrens and certain counties such as Salem and Cumberland is possible due to lower population density and less intensive monitoring.

Understanding Severe Tornado Events

Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale)

The Enhanced Fujita Scale classifies tornadoes based on wind speeds and damage caused:

  • EF-3 tornadoes: Wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph.
  • Older F-3 tornadoes: Wind speeds of 158 to 206 mph.

Significant Tornadoes

New Jersey has experienced several notable EF-3 tornadoes:

  • In 2021, an EF-3 tornado traveled 12.6 miles in Gloucester County, causing widespread damage and injuries.
  • The 1990 Montgomery Township tornado destroyed three homes, injured eight people, and was categorized as an F-3.
  • The 1983 Long Beach Township tornado caused substantial damage to homes, power lines, and commercial properties.
  • Two F-3 tornadoes in Morris County in 1973 caused severe localized damage and numerous injuries.

Preparedness and Response

Given the historical data, it is essential for New Jersey residents to be prepared for tornadoes despite their relative rarity. This includes staying informed during severe weather, understanding emergency alerts, and having a safety plan in place.

Emergency readiness can significantly reduce the impact of tornadoes, ensuring the safety of individuals and minimizing property damage. Recognizing and preparing for the potential for tornadoes in New Jersey can help communities respond more effectively when these unexpected events occur.

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