Three tornadoes hit the East End on November 13 during a freak storm that whipped up an unprecedented six twisters across Long Island in the same day, the National Weather Service confirmed.
Of the Twin Forks area tornadoes, one blew from Hampton Bays to North Sea, another tore up neighborhoods from Remsenburg on its way to Westhampton, and the strongest of the six across the Island traveled from Shirley to Manorville. The Manorville twister clocked in as an EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale that ranks tornado strength, with 110 mph winds, while the other two were EF0, with estimated 85 mph winds — same as the other three that hit up-island.
“It was unprecedented for the region to see that many tornadoes,” said Dominic Ramunni, an Upton-based NWS meteorologist, noting that the NWS’s weather record for LI began in 1950. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency to help expedite funding for the cleanup efforts.
The prior record is three tornadoes in one day, which occurred in 1998. The event marks the first tornado to touch down on the Island since one hit Manorville on Labor Day in 2019. A year prior to that, the Island saw two tornadoes a month apart on Fishers Island and in Ronkonkoma, and a small tornado also hit Mattituck in 2016.
The other three up-island tornadoes were reported from Woodmere to Levittown, East Islip to Oakdale, and in North Bellport. Three more occurred in Connecticut during the same storm.
While the tornadoes made for some scary stories — areas not hit by tornadoes also often experienced strong straight-line winds, torrential downpours and in some places, hail — there were no reported injuries or fatalities, although PSEG Long Island reported about 30,000 of its 1.1 million customers lost power. And they were relatively weak compared to stronger tornadoes that hit Middle America, where EF5 tornadoes with winds of more than 200 mph level homes.
The Manorville twister, which ran a length of 3 ½ miles, first touched down at 3:42 p.m. near Francine Place and Mastic Boulevard in Shirley, where it downed trees and damaged homes, starting out at about 25 yards wide, NWS reported.
“The tornado then hooked northeast over the Lidl supermarket … flipping over a 5-ton air handler unit on the roof, before tearing off the parapet and collapsing the covered walkway of the Chipotle Mexican grill on the northeast corner of the shopping center,” NWS stated in its preliminary assessment. “Public video showed the apparent tornadic circulation lifting northeast across the intersection of William Floyd Parkway and Montauk Highway towards the Applebee’s shopping center, with debris being thrown in one direction, then another.”
The tornado may have lifted briefly before it then touched down again, ripped the roof off a two-story multifamily residence, and tossed the roof 150 yards into a neighboring backyard, with one section of this roof impaled into the side of the neighboring house “and made such a strong impact that it skewed the vertical structure of that house,” NWS reported.
“The tornado strength likely peaked at this point,” the agency’s report stated, adding that the tornado then crossed Sunrise Highway, “skipping its way northeast for the next 4 1/2 miles.”
It passed through Brookhaven Calabro Airport, flipping over or shifting a few small single engine planes, according to the agency. It then traveled through residential neighborhoods, causing damage consistent with an EF0 tornado with 85 mph winds, before it lifted in Manorville eight minutes after it started.
“Numerous tree tops were sheared and tree trunks snapped with minor roof, siding and fencing damage observed for numerous houses along this path,” NWS reported. “A large camper … on Tupelo Drive was rolled onto its side.”
The tornado that traveled from Remsenburg to Westhampton started at 3:53 p.m., minutes after the Manorville twister, and traveled 3.5 miles in seven minutes, NWS reported.
Believed to be a narrow tornado 35 yards wide, it touched down at the corner of Ring Neck Road and South Country Road, then continued northeast, up to Montauk Highway, uprooting several large trees and damaging utility wires and causing minor damage to the exterior of several homes along the way, NWS reported.
“The most extensive structural damage occurred at the end of the visible tornadic path at the [county] Department of Public Works salt barn on south perimeter road on the south side of Westhampton Gabreski Airport,” the NWS assessment stated. “The north-facing reinforced cinder wall of the salt barn was blown out. Indications are the roof may have briefly lifted as south to southwest winds with the tornadic circulation blasted into the south-facing opening, culminating in the north wall being blown out.”
Even first responders accustomed to dealing with the impact of significant coastal storms and hurricanes were taken by surprise.
“It came and went in a flash,” said Mauro DiBenedetto, the first assistant chief of the Westhampton Beach Fire Department. “The same things that happen during a hurricane happened. We’re experienced with wires down … but not in an instant.”
Bellone, after touring the barn that stores road salt that snow plows use to clear East End roads after winter storms, noted that the region was caught by surprise.
“There was not a significant amount of warning at all for this storm,” Bellone said. “The first warning was issued just a short time before the first tornado touched down here.”
HAMPTON BAYS HIT
The tornado that started in Hampton Bays and ended in North Sea was the sixth on LI and the third on the East End to be confirmed by the NWS.
The agency confirmed its occurrence on Tuesday night, but details of the damage it caused or evidence that investigators used to verify it were not immediately available.