‘Caught in the funnel’: Rhode Island EF-2 tornado lifts car from a highway, leaves trail of debris

RHODE ISLAND — A rare Rhode Island tornado lifted a car off an interstate highway Friday morning as severe weather swept already storm-weary New England, a fire official said.

The tornado caused significant damage as it worked its way through Scituate, Johnston and Providence, the NWS said.

The winds peaked at around 110 miles per hour causing enough destruction to classify it as the Ocean State’s most powerful twister since 1986.

The tornado first touched down near Byron Randall Road in Scituate where the most severe damage occurred, the NWS says.

“There were hundreds of large trees either uprooted or snapped at their bases. One home sustained damage to its roof, the top of its chimney was blown off, windows were blown in, and an exterior door was dislodged from its framing. Damage was consistent with winds of around 115 mph which is classified as EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale,” said the NWS.

“The tornado then tracked into Johnston where it lifted a vehicle into the air on I-295 before dropping it back onto the highway. The driver was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries.

“The driver said she got caught in the funnel, was lifted 10 feet in the air and was dropped back down on her tires,” Johnston Fire Chief David Iannuccilli said.

“From there, the tornado moved across Bridle Way and Carriage Way where a number of trees were snapped and uprooted, some of which fell onto homes or vehicles. Some homes also lost some singles from their roofs. A metal Stop sign pole was bent in half and the sign was blown away. The tornado then caused damage in Highland Memorial Park Cemetery where a number of large trees were either snapped or uprooted. The damage observed in Johnston was consistent with winds of 90 to 100 mph which is classified as EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale,” the NWS writes.

The tornado moved through wooded areas and residential neighborhoods, but there were no reported injuries, Iannuccilli said. The tornado was confirmed by radar, and lifted tree limbs and other debris into the air, said Glenn Field, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Finally, the tornado crossed into North Providence where it snapped or uprooted several trees, mostly near Lydia Avenue, Armand Drive, and Bennett Street where two families were forced out of their homes due to the fallen trees.

Across New England, storms toppled trees, flooded roads, damages homes and cars and made for hazardous driving. There were also a few thousands power outages reported, with most occurring in Massachusetts.

Parts of Vermont faced the possibility of flash flooding while residents and businesses were still rebuilding from extensive flooding this summer.

The National Weather Service said the central, northeastern and southern parts of Vermont were under a hazardous weather outlook Friday and into the night, with the forecast calling for thunderstorms capable of producing flooding. Damaging winds were also possible.

Rain was expected in Vermont into Saturday, with some areas getting as much as an inch. Storms earlier in the summer dropped as much as two months’ worth of rain in parts of the state in the span of a couple of days.

In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency sent a team out on the field assessing damage. The agency received reports of downed trees and power lines mostly, said spokesperson Melissa Carden. There were no reports of injuries.

Rockingham and Strafford counties in New Hampshire and York County in Maine were under flood advisories, while Essex County, Massachusetts, was under a flood warning.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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