Posted on 14 Jun 2013 by Neilson
Federal data show tornadoes have increased across New York over the past 60 years, a state legislator said Thursday, calling for a better system to warn people to take shelter.
Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Democrat and member of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, issued a report citing 47 tornadoes recorded from 1950 to 1970, statewide. The frequency rose through the next four decades, and there were 144 over the past 15 years.
"These numbers are alarming," Crespo said.
National Weather Service data also showed nine tornadoes in New York City since 2003, compared with three in the previous two decades and none before that. The 407 tornadoes since 1950 have injured 248 people, according to the report. Most occurred from May to September, with none recorded in December or February.
Thursday's report acknowledged New York's history with tornadoes is much less severe than other states, but said New Yorkers appear to be increasingly facing severe weather, which also includes torrential rains, high winds, flooding and even hurricanes.
Crespo has sponsored legislation to require the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to recommend tornado warning systems, including possible installation of municipal tornado sirens, whether they should be located near schools and hospitals and whether firehouse sirens could be used.
The weather service confirmed storm damage in eastern New York was caused by a tornado May 29 with winds that topped out at 125 mph. The agency said it touched down in Montgomery County and ran 17 miles before lifting in Schenectady County. The damage across the mile-wide path included roofs torn from buildings, toppled power lines, and a large number of trees knocked down or damaged. There were no deaths and one reported injury.
Meteorologist Steve DiRienzo said the service's severe storm warnings already are sent to state and municipal emergency offices, to television and radio broadcast outlets, to the state warning system that residents can subscribe to, and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for wireless alerts to phone subscribers.
"There's a lot of ways for us to get the message out. No one way is going to work all the time," DiRienzo said. Their goal is to inform everyone, to protect lives and property, and redundancy is good, he said.
About increasing the tornado sightings, the meteorologist said one likely factor is more reporting, now including people with cell phones who record videos. "We don't see a lot of them. This isn't Tornado Alley."