Saturday coulda’ been worse

The Courier-Post, October 25, 1926, p1 detail

According to the Courier-Post, the tornado that spread ruin through Camden in 1926 struck Riverton, then moved on to Merchantville and East Camden.

Although tornadoes are much less common in New Jersey, compared to the southern and central US, the state averages around two yearly.

As evidenced by the events of last Saturday, we hope that maybe we’ve already had our quota for the year.

Jim Walsh of the Courier-Post reported:

CINNAMINSON – A tornado that hit Saturday evening traveled six miles from Cinnaminson into Delran and Moorestown, according to the National Weather Service.

And it was preceded by a “downburst event” that toppled trees in Palmyra and Riverton.

No injuries were reported.

The twister, although graded as a “weak” EF-1 tornado, had peak winds of 100 mph that took down trees and power lines, the Weather Service said in a preliminary report Sunday evening.

The tornado began at 6:59 p.m. and ended just six minutes later, the agency said.

The National Weather Service published a preliminary report on Sunday. News crews from the Courier-Post, 6abc News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Fox29 News each put their narrative spin on the event, some even including photos and video. 6abc News produced the video below.

Riverton Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells issued the following statement:

About now, you’re wondering how much tornado damage Riverton has sustained before. Searching our newspaper archive, the internet, and other area periodicals doesn’t turn up much.

Hurricane and storm damage, yes – tornadoes, not so much.

Mount Holly News, June 13, 1899, p3

However, we have had some close calls, with nearby towns sustaining damage.

POSA Hall, Palmyra, NJ

In 1899, “a gust of wind that amounted to almost a tornado” blew off part of Morgan Hall’s roof in Palmyra, toppled several large trees, and knocked a carriage house off its foundation. It demolished a barn and damaged another in Moorestown, then caused more havoc in Mt. Holly.

The New Era, July 29, 1921, p3

Another “almost” tornado struck Palmyra in 1921, causing a great deal of tree damage and tossing about two heavy baggage trucks at the railroad station.

A tornado tossed a two-story building housing 1,400 chickens on Moorestown’s Flying Feather Farm in 1958.

A list documenting each tornado touchdown in New Jersey since 1950 that the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist compiled sheds more light on local tornadoes.

More recently, tornadoes tormented neighboring Mt. Holly in 1991, battered Hainesport and Florence in 2003, visited Mt. Laurel twice in 2019, and struck Edgewater Park in 2021. While for most years since 2000, New Jersey only had from zero to three tornadoes annually, 2019 saw nine, and 2021 saw thirteen!

And this just in from the NWS, 2:58 PM Tuesday, April 4: We’ve confirmed an EF-1 tornado in Mays Landing from Saturday night. Here is an updated list of all the damage survey results. We will work on posting tornado path maps as time allows. You can find detailed survey information here: #NJwx #DEwx #PAwx

OK, tornadoes have my attention now. Seven NJ tornadoes in one day ties a 1989 record for the biggest single-day tornado outbreak in New Jersey! That is seriously three years’ worth of twisters visited on us in a single day.

Tornado broadcast warnings are not just for those living in Tornado Alley. The next time one of those annoying Emergency Alert System notices squawks and takes over my TV screen, I will pay better attention and take cover. Just wish this condo had a basement. -JMc

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John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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