While some parts of the region managed to completely avoid any severe weather from yesterday’s cold front, other areas were not so lucky. One of the hardest hit locations seemed to be Red Hook, NY when a strong cell that was impacting Kingston crossed East over the Hudson yesterday evening. This storm caused multiple calls for trees down, wires down, and lightning strikes on structures, but it didn’t end there. We were able to get some photo’s from Karen Fraleigh of (Fraleigh’s Rose Hill Farm, Red Hook), which show clear signs of another dangerous part of a severe thunderstorms, straight line winds. Straight line winds are very much what they sound to be, very strong winds that push out from Thunderstorms during a downburst of air that is exhausted from the storm. These winds can combine with the forward motion of the storm and create winds that bring damage levels that can be confused with that of a tornado. Typically the National Weather Service will send out a survey team that will look for specific details that help to differentiate between tornado and straight line wind damage. One of the key differences is the damage, in a tornado the debris tends to be scattered and twisted, while in straight line winds the damage is very linear with trees beings toppled in a similar direction that is usually in the opposite direction of the storm. In the images below you can see that all of the trees were toppled in the same direction, when I spoke to Karen she was able to assist in determining that all of the trees were pointed east, which as you can see from the below radar image was the direction in which the storm was heading.
Based on these photos it appears the winds must have topped 58 miles per hours in these gusts, which is the minimum criteria for a storm to be considered severe by the NWS, it is when radar or observations note winds above these speeds, that a storm is issued a severe thunderstorm warning. This particular storm was never severe warned, but yet it caused numerous power outages and tree damage across this region, had multiple cloud to ground/structure lightning strikes, and contained straight line winds in access of 58 MPH. This is very similar to the EF2 Tornado that caused four fatalities in Smithfield NY earlier this month, with winds up to 130 MPH. That storm never received a tornado warning, and was only on the ground for about four minutes, which is less time than it takes for the radar to update itself, therefore the rotation that must be verified by with radar or observation was unable to be realized and therefore a warning was not issued. The moral of the story is that not the NWS, HVW or anyone will always get something as wild and untamed as nature, 100% correct every time. All we can do is take our best educated prediction as to what could occur and provide the needed information and hopefully early warning to be prepared. Whenever a severe weather potential is forecasted, it is important to have plan for yourself and for the people around you if severe weather is to strike. Please take all watches and warnings seriously, but also be aware that knowledge, observation and personal preparedness can sometimes be more timely than a Facebook post or weather warning.
Here is a look at a radar image of the storm that moved through Red Hook-
Image of cloud to ground lightning and rain shaft from the storm as it entered Dutchess County-
Examples of Straight Line Wind damage in Red Hook, NY, over 150 trees were knocked over in just this one farm!