Not a Tornado: Cape May’s Major Storm Damage Caused By a Microburst
The high winds that blew through Cape May County on Tuesday were the result of straight line winds from a microburst and not a tornado according to the National Weather Service.
WPG Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said he is not surprised by the conclusion of the NWS survey team.
"While there was a tight area of rotation over Cape May County on Tuesday that prompted the Tornado Warning, the radar pattern showed a pretty classic microburst signature," Zarrow said.
Accordng to the NWS, the maximum wind speed was between 70-80 MPH and was concentrated on Burleigh Road where several trees were snapped or uprooted. Utility poles and power lines were also damaged and a tree and wires blocked the road.
Some residents said they saw a funnel cloud over a supermarket during Tuesday afternoon's storm which had a wind gust of 80 mph in Cape May recorded by the NWS. Half-dollar size hail fell in Barnegat and the roof of the Wildwood Public Works building was blown off.
"A microburst is a sudden, localized downward gust of wind emanating from a thunderstorm. In other words, imagine a thunderstorm totally collapsing, and that entire column of air rapidly falling out of the sky and slamming into the ground. The result is some intense wind gusts spreading out in all directions, occasionally topping 100 mph," Zarrow explained.
The easiest way to tell if damage was caused by a mircoburst or a tornado is the damage itself.
"Tornado damage occurs along a straight line, while microburst damage occurs radially around a single point," Zarrow said.
The NWS said it would issue a further explanation of their conclusion later on.
Nearly 4,000 Atlantic City Electric customers were still without power as of 4:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, according to their outage map, in Lower, Middle and Upper townships.
"The estimated time of restoration for the vast majority of customers still without power is midnight tonight. Any remaining customers are expected to be restored by Thursday afternoon," said the utilty in a statement. Sister utilities Delmarva Power, Pepco and PECO are assisting with restoration.
Zarrow said New Jersey's last confirmed microburst was in Cumberland County causing damage in Bridgeton and Hopewell. The most memorable was on June 15, 2015 in several locations across South Jersey with a top wind gust of 71 MPH in Hammonton in Atlantic County. "The Oswego Lake area (Burlington County) suffered some significant damage," Zarrow said.
According to state climatologist Dave Robinson said New Jersey's last tornado was in 2013 in Paramus with a sustained wind of 100 MPH.