The region underwent three days in a row last week where hail, damaging winds and even a tornado were going concerns. It felt more like the Southern Plains than South Jersey.
“It was one of the more memorable stretches,” said Valerie Meola, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.
The Mount Holly office, which covers the southern Poconos, southeastern Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey, Delaware and far northeastern Maryland, has been plenty busy over the past couple of weeks.
With severe weather possible again late Wednesday, its job of issuing severe weather warnings may continue.
For much of last week, high pressure was anchored in the Deep South. Storms flow clockwise around the periphery of the high-pressure center. That periphery was located right along the Mason-Dixon Line, as a nearly stationary front parked itself overhead for a three-day period. That acted as a funnel to send along showers and storms to our area. Unstable air flowed in from the warm Gulf of Mexico, north into the Southern Plains, over into the mid-South and then into the area of the stationary front. This set off the marathon event of activity.
“People may go back in earth science to the ‘ring of fire,’ which are the volcanoes and earthquakes that surround the Pacific Ocean, associated with plate tectonics. Here, we had storms form a ‘ring of fire’ around the outside of the high-pressure system,” said Dave Robinson, the state climatologist.
“We’ve had multiple days in a row of convection, but to have such strong multiple rounds of convection is rare,” Meola said.
Severe thunderstorms strike South Jersey on May 29, 2019
Press of Atlantic City readers caught the moments before a thunderstorm was about to strike their location. May 29, 2019 was the fourth day in a row with the risk for severe weather and the second day in a row with a tornado watch.
Two severe wind reports were seen in Fortescue and Commercial Township. No tornadoes touched down in the area.
The Mount Holly office released 66 severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings from May 28 to 30. Eighteen of those were in Cumberland (8), Atlantic (4), Cape May (4) and southern Ocean (2) counties.
The storms produced five official damage reports in Cumberland County, including a report of a waterspout near Fortescue last Tuesday. Also last week, high winds led to 10 utility poles being snapped in Hopewell Township.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, responsible for issuing the outlooks that specify which level of risk that region is in (in ascending order: marginal, slight, enhanced, moderate, high), put at least part of South Jersey in a slight risk last Tuesday and Thursday and in an enhanced risk last Wednesday.
The last time there were at least three days in a row that the region was under a risk of severe weather was July 11-14, 2017.
Since the Center added marginal and enhanced risk levels in 2014, there’s been no three-day streak with at least an enhanced risk included.
A waterspout was reported in Fortescue and scattered damage reports filled South Jersey as a…
During last week’s string of storms, a tornado watch or severe thunderstorm watch was put into effect each day. Severe weather and tornado watches are put into effect by the center, not the local National Weather Service office. The center highlights the areas where the ingredients for severe weather are. Then, when severe weather is imminent, a warning is put into place.
“If a watch is needed, they’ll (the Storm Prediction Center) will coordinate with the local NWS office to talk about what counties and water areas they want in. Once the watch is out, it means you have all of the ingredients for something to happen, but nothing is imminent. The warnings are all issued at the local level,” Meola said.
Since the start of the year, the eight tornado and severe thunderstorm watches are the fifth highest amounts since 1997.