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The number of tornado warnings in New York on Wednesday was almost unprecedented

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July 10 was an almost unprecedented day for tornado warnings in New York, with more than 45 warnings issued across the state.

The first warning was issued a few minutes after noon, but new warnings were still being issued into the evening as the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Beryl moved across New York. As the storms reached the north of the country, concerns shifted from damaging winds to flash flooding, capping off a dangerous and destructive day of weather in the Northeast.

Tornado sightings and danger precede official figures

Two of the tornadoes seen in shocking social media posts were confirmed by the National Weather Service in Buffalo; one began in the town of Eden in Erie County and another in the town of Arkwright in Chautauqua County.

The tornado in Chautauqua County was rated EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with estimated peak sustained winds of 110 mph (177 km/h), according to the weather service. It traveled 3 miles (4.8 km) and reached a maximum width of 450 feet (137 m).

The tornado caused increasing damage along its path, damaging roofs and trees as it moved northeast toward the town of Hanover. Several buildings along Prospect Road had their roofs collapsed and an entire forest of hardwood trees were either uprooted or snapped completely.

The Eden tornado, with an estimated peak speed of 85 miles per hour, left a 230-foot-wide path and caused tree damage along Gary Drive and Sauer Road. Damage also included uprooted trees that fell on several buildings along the path.

“We have roofs that have been blown off, we have barns that have been destroyed,” said Jackie Bray, the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner. “We have a mobile home that has literally flipped 180 degrees and is laying on its hood.”

The state is working to not only confirm the total number of tornadoes, but also provide estimates of damage.

Some tornado warnings were issued because radars detected rotations in the clouds, not actual tornadoes. Some preliminary storm reports from the weather service confirmed thunderstorm damage, including downed power lines, but no tornado-specific damage as of early Wednesday evening.

More: Destructive storms and tornadoes are sweeping through northern New York State. See the damage

Remarkable tornado days in New York

Another day with numerous tornado warnings in New York was May 31, 1998, when there were 41.

That day, a series of storms over the Great Lakes region spawned 13 confirmed tornadoes, including four EF3 tornadoes. Only one touched down in western New York State, an EF1 tornado near Brocton, Chautauqua County, which destroyed or damaged several structures, including a hangar, outbuildings at a fertilizer plant, and several mobile homes.

On August 7, 2023, there were seven tornadoes statewide, including a tornado in Lewis County with an enhanced Fujita Level 3. The tornado damaged homes, barns, trees, the Snow Ridge Ski Resort, and a motel. It moved 16 miles and caused $1.5 million in property damage.

New York City experiences an average of about seven tornadoes each year; between January 1950 and March 2024, there were 514 tornadoes.

Tornado preparation

Meteorologists had warned of the possibility of tornadoes when the remnants of Beryl weather hit New York, but Bray acknowledged that deploying resources under a tornado warning for nearly the entire state could be more difficult than for a lake-spawned blizzard.

“At these events, there is a 15-minute warning, and that’s a whole different story for us,” she said.

In addition to contacts with county emergency management agencies, Bray said about 4,000 employees from the Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority are on standby to clear debris, close roads and safely reopen them. Another 5,000 utility workers are on the way to restore power to thousands of customers who were without electricity during the storms.

One of the most common questions Bray was asked today was what to do in the event of a tornado. The best thing to do is to seek shelter in an indoor space with no windows or take cover if you are outside, driving or in an RV.

“I think in many places where tornadoes occur, people instinctively know what to do, similar to how people in upstate New York know what to do when it snows, or people on Long Island know what to do when there’s a storm surge,” Bray said. “We don’t have muscle memory (for tornadoes) in New York.”

More: What to do if there is a tornado warning?

How to protect yourself during a tornado warning

  • Protect yourself from flying or falling debris, the greatest life-threatening hazard.
  • Seek shelter in the nearest and safest indoor or basement room.
  • Always avoid windows.
  • Do not go to the windows or doors to look outside.
  • Cover yourself with thick protective coverings, such as a mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets or other protective coverings.
  • Wear a helmet (if available) to protect your head from foreign objects.

— This story includes reporting by USA Today reporter Dinah Voyles Pulver

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