Tornado brings 2 minutes of destruction to Middletown
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in the Lincroft section of Middletown on Wednesday morning, toppling trees onto the roofs of two houses and destroying metal bleachers all within two minutes.
A survey team said the tornado with 80 mph winds cut a relatively narrow path of 70 yards and was rated EF0 on the enhanced Fujita scale. It traveled a distance of just over a mile.
The twister began its destruction when it touched down on the baseball field at Brookdale Community College about 9:57 a.m. where it tossed the metal bleachers, according to the survey team. It then crossed east across Phalanx Road where several trees were damaged around Hickory Lane, the team said.
Brookdale spokeswoman Shanna Williams told New Jersey 101.5 the bleachers were near the school's soccer field and the outfield fence at the baseball field was also destroyed by the storm.
Middletown Fire Department spokesman Dennis Fowler said two trees fell on a house on Hickory Lane while power lines and branches fell on the street.
The tornado also brought down a 70-foot tree onto a house on nearby Greengrove Court. The tree damaged two floors of the home, according to Fowler. Services were cut to both houses while the damage was assessed.
The tornado then cut a path to the south toward Swimming River Reservoir and entered another residential area near Swimming River Road where more trees were damaged.
By 9:59 p.m., the storm lifted as it entered Riverdale West Park where a couple of houses were damaged by falling debris.
Middletown Mayor Tony Perry told New Jersey 101.5 that a family was in the process of moving into one of the homes damaged by a tree.
"It was one of those one where you're like 'how do I say welcome to Middletown' and you're going through this at the same time. Your heart just breaks for these people knowing that they have children, they were moving into the house of their dreams. This was their house they had been waiting for," Perry said.
Middletown police told New Jersey 101.5 that at least 20 trees, each 90 years old, came down during the storm.
No one was injured by the storm, according to Fowler.
Perry said that when he got the alert about the Tornado Warning he knew heavy rain was expected but not a tornado.
"When I got the Tornado Warning alert I just said 'that's fitting for how 2020 is going' but scary at the same time. It got so dark so quickly and the storm felt like it was right over your house, " Perry said.
New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said the storm developed strongly and quickly, catching him off guard as well.
"While the strength and rapid development of the storm was a surprise, this tornado determination is not. A tornado is technically defined as a violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. It is a small-scale weather phenomenon," Zarrow said. "Given the isolated nature of the worst damage around Monmouth County, situated along a straight track, the classic definition fits."
Zarrow said this is New Jersey's fourth confirmed tornado of 2020. More tornado warnings have been issued for New Jersey this year than in Oklahoma, which is nicknamed Tornado Alley.
"The first tornado occurred on April 21, near Normandy Beach and Chadwick Beach in Ocean County. The second and third twisters were spawned by Tropical Storm Isaias earlier this month near Sea Isle City and LBI, respectively. On average, New Jersey tallies two or three tornadoes a year. We saw a total of nine in 2019," Zarrow said.