July 13, 2012
to look back on memorable severe weather outbreaks to affect the Garden
State, GWC recalls the wild weather of November 1989. Nearly two months
after Hurricane Hugo
made landfall in Charleston, South Carolina, and a month after the devastating
earthquake in the Loma Prieta section of San Francisco, severe weather
roared through New Jersey as well as much of the Northeast on two occasions.
The first incident
was on Thursday, November 16, 1989 when a cold front that stretched
through much of the eastern half of the United States, spawned all kinds
of severe weather including tornadoes from as far south as Alabama into
Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The second incident occurred
four days later on Monday, November 20, 1989 when a cold front accompanied
by a powerful low pressure system spawned severe thunderstorms with
winds of up to 80 miles per hour across parts of the Garden State.
a result of the stormy duo, temperatures dropped dramatically over the
next few days, and there wound up being snow
on Thanksgiving. Approximately 4.7 inches of the white stuff fell
in New York while about a half of a foot fell in Newark. Those marks
made it the snowiest Thanksgiving on record in those areas. I remember
all three of those storms very well although I thought that there was
a bit of a gap between the first and second storms. At the time, I was
taking three classes at night over at Middlesex County College.
the morning of November 16th, I woke up to the sound of a howling wind
outside. The powerful winds drew my curiosity. I turned on the news,
and saw reports coming out of Huntsville, Alabama of a devastating tornado
there. Those storms had occurred less than 24 hours earlier. According
to a report
by the National Weather Service office there, the storm struck at about
4:30 PM in the afternoon, and was officially declared an EF4 tornado.
It damaged about 80 businesses, 3 churches, over 1,000 cars, 259 homes,
and a dozen apartment buildings. The twister left 21 people dead, another
463 were injured, and about $250 million in damage.
went outside to take in more of the ferocious wind. These winds were
strong. I watched as the trees frantically swayed in the wind. At one
point, the winds seemed to have some extra to them as if they were a
baseball pitcher ready to unleash his best fastball. The experience
was scary and exciting at the same time. I went back inside to listen
to the radio, which gave reports of storms moving through the area.
When all was said and done, there were reports of 22 tornadoes in the
Northeastern United States including 8 in New York, 7 in New Jersey,
and 4 in Eastern Pennsylvania according to a report given by the National
Weather Service Office in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. One of the most
notable impacts from this storm system was a school in Newburgh,
New York, which lost seven children when a wall collapsed on them
during a lunch break.
The severe weather
took a break for several days before striking back with a vengeance.
Another powerful storm system barreled into the major cities along the
Eastern seaboard during the evening of November 20th. Severe thunderstorms
unleashed high winds in excess of 80 miles per hour across Central Jersey
with plenty of lightning. On that evening, I was at Middlesex County
College taking a Calculus class. When I came out of the building where
my class took place, the winds suddenly picked up. Being only about
150 pounds at the time didn't make things easier. The winds literally
carried me to my car. Driving home, I listened to the radio reports
of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings being issued while l could see lightning
Getting home safely,
I continued to monitor reports on television. The Monday Night Football
game between the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos was quite memorable.
As the storm pushed through Washington, D.C., strong winds began to
pick up all kinds of debris in the stadium. The game continued on through
the maelstrom though. These two days were the stormiest days in November
on record in New Jersey. These two dates alone combined for 57 severe
weather/damage reports. Thirty-three reports were filed on November
20th while another 24 were filed on November 16th. The number of incidents
as well as tornado occurrences were unprecedented for this time of year
in the Garden State. Severe weather season usually peaks in July and
August in New Jersey and New York.
on both outbreaks were written by forecasters from the National Weather
Service. The paper on the November
20th outbreak was published first in April 1993 while the paper
on the November
16th outbreak was published in June 1994. Jet streaks, regions of
maximum wind speed greater than the rest of the jet stream, played a
pivotal role in the severe storms that occurred on the 16th. Meanwhile,
a tight thermal gradient (area of temperature difference) along with
strong west-northwesterly winds perpendicular to the thermal gradient
produced cold air advection that created enough instability to spawn
the outbreak on the 20th.
pressure ranging from 983 to 988 mb (about 29.02 to 29.18 inches of
Hg) in the province of Ontario, Canada had an accompanying cold front
that drove into what was very stable and dry air with temperatures in
the 30s and 40s along with dew points in the 20s on November 20th. The
low, which had the pressure of a Category One Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson
Scale, produced strong winds and significant wind shear that helped
fuel development of the severe thunderstorms. In the outbreak of November
16th, jet streaks near the surface and in the upper levels of the atmosphere
provided the spark for the severe weather and tornadoes. The jet streak
near the surface produced the essential shear while the upper level
jet streak created instability in the atmosphere.
These two storm
systems finally ushered in winter in Central Jersey. Thanksgiving had
a look more of Christmas with a rare significant snowfall. The drop
in temperature from the cold air advection that took place during the
November 20th outbreak made it cold enough to support snow. I remember
walking around town during the snow and marveling about the timing of
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