July 3, 1996 Waterbury-Wolcott Tornado

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The July 3, 1996 tornado that hit Waterbury and Wolcott was quite unique. In the past 25+ years it is the only tornado to hit early in the morning! The storm struck around 6:30 a.m. in Waterbury trees were knocked down north of downtown and the worst damage occurred near Wilby High School where the football field scoreboard was picked up and carried a 1/2 mile!

July 3, 1996 Waterbury-Wolcott Tornado

  • Intensity: F1
  • Length/Width: 0.5 Miles/100 Years
  • Damage $2,000,000
  • Time: 10:40-10:44 UTC
  • Towns Impacted: Waterbury, Wolcott
  • Details: Snapped trees near Montoe Park, significant damage near Wilby High School including a destroyed tool shed and football field scoreboard. Serious damage to the school’s roof and several windows were blown out. Significant tree and some minor structural damage in Wolcott with hail up to 1.0″ in diameter.

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This tornado occurred in a transient supercell that developed within a broader QLCS that stretched from Springfield, Mass to Westchester County, NY. Unfortunately, radar data from OKX is unavailable for this event – but the mesocyclone was deep enough to observe on both BOX and ENX radar data from quite a distance.

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By the time the tornado lifted in Wolcott velocity data from BOX shows gate-to-gate delta-V of 41 knots at 9,000 ft AGL. That’s fairly impressive.

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The morning weather balloon launch from Long Island shows a soupy and tropical airmass. LCLs are quite low and there is modest CAPE. Somewhat surprisingly, low level winds are quite weak. The 850mb wind is west-southwesterly at only 15 knots. The surface observations ahead of this QLCS reveal dense fog along the shoreline south of the storm. Not exactly typical for a Connecticut tornado event!

METAR KHVN 031045Z 14003KT 1/8SM -DZFG VV001 20/ A2958

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This event, which occurred ahead of a weak closed low in a tropical environment, was quite isolated. The only report of severe weather from this morning QLCS came from the embedded supercell in Waterbury, Wolcott in Southington. At the storm-scale this is an interesting hybrid case with a well-defined mesocyclone embedded within a QLCS. It’s also a good reminder that pre-12z tornadoes can happen here in New England – especially in July and August when the boundary layer is juiced.

 

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