They were seconds many Barrington and Warren residents will not soon forget…a little after 4pm on Tuesday afternoon.Skies darkened, rain and hail rushed down from the clouds and a ferocious wind snapped the tops off trees while toppling others.
We really have to look back a couple of days to understand what happened in Bristol County, RI. Heavy thunderstorms awoke many Southern New Englanders Sunday morning, flooding parts of Coventry. Monday, more rain flooded the first floor of the Dean Estates in Cranston…and Coventry again. Meanwhile, Barrington and Warren had received 2-3″ of rain between the two days.
Storms started to erupt across Southern New England early in the afternoon. A couple of thunderstorms approaching Block Island were rotating, and Doppler radar data was indicating that a waterspout (tornado over water) was approaching the island. We use computer programs that analyze storms and show us where a tornado or waterspout may be.
It should be noted, there was never a report of a waterspout around Block Island…but this serves as an indication of the kind of atmosphere in place.
Storms began to grow as they crossed Rhode Island within a decent set up for severe weather. Upper-level winds and temperatures were favorable for strong thunderstorms, and there was plenty of moisture for the storms. Morning sunshine created a moderately unstable atmosphere.
Storms marched across Rhode Island…bringing mostly torrential rain and frequent lightning. There was one severe thunderstorm in extreme northern Rhode Island, but that quickly moved out of that area into Worcester County.
The second severe storm moved off Warwick and across Narragansett Bay into Barrington as hail was building inside the cloud. Strong updrafts within the storm allowed the hail stones to grow in size. Seeing the size of the hail stones that fall is a good indication of how strong the vertically-moving air is . Eventually the hail go too heavy and fell to the ground with a rush of wind caused by rain-cooled air. Hail up to the size of quarters fell over Barrington and Warren. This is a picture of hail in Barrington from Michelle Muscatello.
There were many reports of damage across the area. Beginning at the Rhode Island Country Club where a two foot diameter tree fell on the golf course. A bit further northeast, large branches were snapped at the Primrose Hill Cemetery right next to Barrington Town Hall.
Wind damage at Primrose Hill Cemetery in Barrington.
The gust of wind, which I estimate to be around 80mph, moved across the Barrington River into the Hampden Meadows section of town. Tree branches were snapped on Plymouth Drive and one inch hail pummeled the area.
The wind continued across the Palmer River and into Warren where some of the worst damage was found.
Donna Brown told me that the rain and hail was so loud as it hit the side of her house that she didn’t hear the wind knock down a dozen or so trees behind her Market Street home. A tree in her neighbor’s yard had the top of it snapped off.
Paul Andrade’s yard also saw significant damage. When the winds began to pick up, he tried to roll up the sun shade over his patio. He had to give up because the winds got too strong. Five weeping willow trees were toppled in his yard along with large pieces of earth at the roots.
Another tree, down the street from Andrade, fell onto the truck of one of his neighbors.
On the other side of Market Street, Douglas Domina showed me where the rush of wind damaged trees.
The historical cemetery next to his house had a couple of trees toppled, but fortunately it appears as though no headstones were damaged.
Behind Domina’s house, however, many trees were either toppled or damaged. The picture below shows a row of 5-6 trees blown over.
The wind continued into Swansea where trees fell onto Route 136. The rain flooded the same street….8inches deep.
The damage from this microburst appeared to stop in Swansea, but it followed a path beginning in Barrington about 3miles long and was, at times, about 1 mile wide.
All the trees were damaged in the same direction (although I did find one tree which was snapped from a different angle on the north side of Britteny Lane). The fact that most of this damage is uni-directional, shows that this was a microburst producing straight-line winds across the three towns. The trees fell so easily because the ground was soaked from 3 days of heavy rain. Now, the clean up continues.