Worst Tornadoes in Vermont: History and Impact

June 5, 2024

Tornadoes are relatively rare in Vermont compared to states in the "Tornado Alley." However, their impact, when they do occur, can be significant. Since 1950, at least 46 tornadoes have touched down in Vermont, with some causing considerable damage and disruption.


General Tornado Activity in Vermont

Although tornadoes are infrequent in Vermont, they are not unheard of. The state has seen several notable tornado events over the decades, with various levels of intensity and damage. The state's most recent tornado activity included a tornado watch tied to Tropical Storm Isaias.

Historical Record

From 1950 onward, Vermont has experienced a total of 46 recorded tornadoes. The majority of these tornadoes have been classified as either EF0 or EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which indicates relatively weaker tornadoes compared to the more severe ones seen elsewhere in the United States.

Recent Activity

One of the recent significant tornado events in Vermont was the Windham Tornado in 2020. An EF1 tornado hit Windham on August 21, creating a 350-yard-wide path of damage over three-fourths of a mile. This tornado caused substantial damage to homes, uprooted trees, and scattered debris extensively, highlighting the potential destructiveness of even less severe tornadoes.

Tornado Classifications

Tornadoes are categorized based on their wind speeds and the damage they cause, using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale.

Average Classification

In the U.S., around 77% of tornadoes are classified as EF0 or EF1. These tornadoes, while still dangerous, generally cause less severe damage and have lower wind speeds compared to higher-rated tornadoes.

Severe Tornadoes

Only about 5% of tornadoes reach a classification of EF3 or above, with winds capable of exceeding 200 mph, leading to more catastrophic damage. Vermont has seen very few such severe tornadoes.

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Noteworthy Tornado Events in Vermont

July 9, 1962

In Windsor County, an EF2 tornado created a 10-mile path of destruction, causing significant damage to properties in its way.

August 3, 1970

An EF2 tornado caused injuries and extensive damage in St. Albans Town, even overturning a trailer.

August 8, 1983

An EF2 tornado in Colchester resulted in $2.5 million in damages, highlighting the financial impact such weather events can have on communities.

May 31, 1998

A tornado that originated in New York weakened to an EF1 upon reaching Vermont, but still caused extensive tree damage and power outages in Bennington County.

July 21, 2003

The longest recorded tornado in Vermont spanned 25 miles and caused significant damage in areas like Pownal.

Regional Tornado Activity

Vermont's tornado activity can be contrasted with neighboring states that have experienced more frequent or severe tornadoes.

Massachusetts

An EF3 tornado in 2011 resulted in three deaths and significant injuries, while historically, the deadliest tornado occurred in 1953.

New York

New York has recorded over 470 tornadoes, with a particularly severe year in 1989 that saw extensive damage and fatalities.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, 105 tornadoes have been recorded over 70 years, with EF3 events causing notable destruction and one fatality reported.

Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning

Understanding the terminology associated with tornado alerts is crucial for preparedness.

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch indicates that conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather, including tornadoes. It is a time to remain vigilant and prepared for potential severe weather.

Tornado Warning

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Immediate action should be taken to seek shelter and ensure safety.

Safety Precautions

Proper safety precautions can significantly reduce the risk of injury or death during a tornado.

Seek Shelter

The safest place to be during a tornado is in a storm cellar, basement, or a small interior room on the lowest level of a building.

Interior Safety

If a basement is not available, seek refuge in small interior rooms such as bathrooms, closets, or hallways on the lowest level of a building.

Avoid Dangerous Areas

Stay away from windows, doors, exterior walls, overpasses, and bridges, which can become hazardous due to flying debris and structural collapse.

Protective Measures

Use your arms to protect your head and neck. If possible, use a mattress, sleeping bag, or heavy blankets to cover yourself while taking shelter.

Understanding the history, impact, and necessary safety measures associated with tornadoes in Vermont is crucial for effective preparedness and response to these rare but potentially devastating weather events.

Author: Austin Danforth
Contact: edanford@freepressmedia.com
Twitter: @eadanforth

Note: Additional coverage of tornado activity and other significant weather events in Vermont is supported by reader subscriptions to the Burlington Free Press.

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