It looked like a freight train speeding towards his house.
âI was going to get my wife and go to the basement. We didn’t have time, âsaid Michael Haggerty of the tornado that ravaged his neighborhood of Doylestown last August.
â(My wife) was in the family room right next to the window which got washed out. I just jumped on him, âHaggerty said. âI didn’t know what was going to happen. It was gone in 15 seconds. It was so fast.
Fast. And more and more frequent, the files show it.
Pennsylvanians expect occasional flooding, snowstorms, and hurricanes. Now reports of tornadoes are also on the rise.
Some say it’s climate change. Others point to residential construction in previously undeveloped areas of the state. Researchers also say tornadoes need to be spotted and technology has advanced to detect more tornadoes in recent decades.
When asked about the number of tornadoes, the National Weather Service said its tracking system was not perfect. Tornadoes could have gone unnoticed or unreported in the past.
âThe temperature and precipitation are collected by instruments that are installed and record information every day,â said
“A tornado requires an observer and knowledge of how to enter it into the database.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine not having noticed dozens of tornadoes in previous years and across much of the state.
Pennsylvania is expected to average 16 tornadoes per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Twenty-nine tornadoes were reported in 2017. In 2018, 33 were spotted and 37 tornadoes were seen in 2019.
Pennsylvania reported just 10 occurrences last year.
The August 2020 tornado that wreaked havoc in Doylestown appears to have started in Bensalem, where it uprooted trees, according to the National Meteorological Service. Then he went down to Philadelphia, where he damaged stores and overturned vehicles at the Philadelphia Mills Mall.
It wasn’t until later that he appeared in the Doylestown area, according to the National Weather Service. With wind gusts estimated at 115 mph, the twister “picked up and thrown “from the bleachers on an athletic field at Central Bucks West High School and damaged a day care center at Doylestown hospital. Six automobiles were “thrown some distance away”, according to the report.
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What is behind the increase in tornadoes?
Science offers a few theories as to why we see more tornadoes.
On April 16, the journal Atmosphere published the study “Geographic and environmental change in tornado activity in the United States in a warming climate. âAn increase in tornadoes across a wider swath of the United States could be due to rising surface air temperatures, the researchers said.
Since the 1950s, researchers have reported the highest number of tornadoes in the region which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas, commonly called Tornado Alley, said Stephen bennett, President of American Meteorological SocietyFinancial Weather and Climate Risks Committee.
âThe recipe for tornadoes requires certain ingredients,â Bennett said. âWarm, humid air is the base. Then add an unstable atmosphere which causes the air to rise rapidly from the ground to heights above 30,000 to 40,000 feet. Finally, these ingredients must mix with the wind shear.
Twenty years of data from the Pennsylvania tornadoes show that most tornadoes occurred during the summer months and mid to late afternoon.
Three-quarters of the reported tornadoes occurred between May and September. Most – 67% – happened between 2 and 6 p.m., according to records.
The majority were rated EF0 and EF1 with winds ranging from 65 to 110 mph.
Two deaths and 85 injuries were reported over the 20-year period and the combined damage was estimated at $ 121 million.
Research is mixed as to whether climate change will cause even more tornadoes in the future, Bennett said.
âUnfortunately, this is not yet a clear answer and science has not yet been able to determine how climate change will affect the formation of tornadoes,â Bennett said. “Even so, it’s certainly possible that climate change is pushing the small-scale weather patterns that are so common in Tornado Alley closer to Pennsylvania.”
Contact reporter James McGinnis at email@example.com