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Tornado hit Charlestown, National Weather Service confirms

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    Debra Morrell, of Charlestown, N.H., photographs damage on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, from a tornado that blew down trees and utility poles along about a mile of Route 11 on the north end of Charlestown, N.H., on Monday. "I went outside and it was all I could do to walk," she said of Monday's night's storm. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • A tree lies on its side on Morningside Lane in Charlestown, N.H., on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, after being blown down in a tornado on Monday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • A utility pole that snapped during a tornado on Monday on Route 11 on the north end of Charlestown, N.H., waits to be replaced on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A tree, partially uprooted by a tornado on Monday, was cut at the side of Route 11 in Charlestown, N.H., on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2022 10:03:05 PM
Modified: 5/17/2022 10:02:42 PM

CHARLESTOWN — Wes Carter was driving through Charlestown when he spied a dark, swirling funnel cloud ahead of him. The wind bent trees and utility polls along the road and rain drummed against his car.

He pulled over as the tornado barreled toward him on the highway, brushing close to his car. Then, he drove ahead, skirting the fallen trees. He caught the ordeal on his dash camera and uploaded it onto YouTube.

A survey team confirmed that it was a tornado with wind speeds reaching as high of 90 miles per hour, said John Cannon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service station based in Grey, Maine.

The tornado touched down at 6:22 p.m. and tracked for at least a mile. For most of its run, it was a zero on the enhanced Fujita scale — which measures tornado intensity and goes up to 5 — with speeds under 72 mph. But it picked up speed as it moved north across the Claremont town line, Cannon said.

“There was a lot of tree damage,” Cannon said. “It was a couple miles from downtown Claremont, so didn’t hit the center of town.”

The tornado has the distinction of being the sixth-earliest tornado on record in New Hampshire, where the weather service has been collecting data since 1950, Cannon said.

In New England, tornadoes are not the frequent threat that they are in the flat expanses of the Midwest. But they are not unheard of either, and they are most common in the summer months from June through August. New Hampshire averages two tornadoes a year, Cannon said.

A tornado is a violent, fast-spinning column of air that reaches from a thunderstorm to the ground. The wind itself is invisible, but the water droplets, dust and debris it carries can form a gray, swirling funnel. They can appear so suddenly that there is little time to warn people to take cover, according to the Northeast States Emergency Consortium.

The rolling landscape of New England makes it difficult for a tornado to endure and reach the most dangerous speeds. When a tornado approaches a hill, the rugged terrain stirs the air and “throws off the circulation” of a tornado, Palmer said. Often, that is enough to destroy it.

“We rarely have a tornado more intense than an EF 2,” Palmer said. In a enhanced Fujita 2 tornado, winds reach speeds of 111 to 135 mph.

The damage was mostly confined to the main road where the suspected tornado touched down, said Diane Dezan, human resources officer in Charlestown. By this morning, she was able to drive on Route 12 to work. The state was responsible for the cleanup along the road, she said. Hail and high winds did not significantly damage personal property to her knowledge.

Meanwhile in Claremont, the wind had knocked trees over electric wires and broken several utility poles on an approximately ¾-mile stretch of Claremont Road. Some power lines were also down near North Charlestown Community School.

And in Grantham, the storm was so violent that lightning struck a home. Heavy smoke billowed from the house as first responders extinguished the flames.

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at cpotter@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.




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