Large and extremely dangerous tornadoes ripped through a Philadelphia suburban township on Thursday, leaving behind a path of destruction and buildings, as well as homes in complete shambles. Luckily, no deaths were reported.
The National Weather Service’s Mount Holly station issued 14 tornado warnings throughout the day and night. That represented almost half of the total 29 tornado warnings NWS Mount Holly has issued this year.
In addition, Thursday was the first time the NWS issued a “particularly dangerous situation” tornado warning. The PDS label implies that there is an enhanced risk of very severe and life-threatening weather.
The warnings proved prescient: Seven tornadoes were confirmed as of Friday evening to have struck in the Philadelphia suburbs and New Jersey.
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Two different tornadoes were observed in Bucks County. The first tornado was spotted in Lumberville at 5:50 p.m., New Hope at 6:01 p.m. and Washington Crossing at 6:07 p.m. The second tornado, confirmed as a powerful EF-3, was spotted at the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem at 7:10 p.m.
In New Jersey, a confirmed EF-2 tornado struck Waretown in Ocean County, then actually became a water spout as it crossed the Barnegat Bay and emerged on Long Beach Island as a tornado, the NWS said.
SkyForce10 was over the Bensalem area after the storm, showing homes and buildings that were ripped apart, including the Faulkner Mazda car dealership in Trevose.
“The Faulkner area just looks like a TV show, just looks like a bomb went off, I mean it’s gone,” Bensalem Township Police Director of Public Safety Fred Harran said.
The tornado tossed cars like toys, blew out windows, tore down a Mazda sign and injured at least four people at the dealership. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for and the injuries were considered minor.
"[I] literally went into a panic attack," Lisa Boyd of Bensalem Township told NBC10. "So, just found out everybody is safe. But there's a lot of damage."
At a nearby Lowe's store, a large shed slammed against a tree and another tree snapped in half.
In one Bensalem neighborhood, a trampoline landed on a tree in someone's yard.
The Neshaminy Mall was being used as an evacuation center for those looking for shelter.
Any Bensalem residents displaced by the storm and in need of shelter can call Bensalem Police at 215-633-3719 or 911 in case of an emergency.
A tornado was also spotted over Mercerville-Hamilton Square near Trenton, New Jersey, at 6:34 p.m. and widespread flooding and water rescues occurred in Mercer County, including East Windsor.
"It's crazy. Water is flooding everywhere in the town and there's cones and you still have people driving around the cones and driving through the water," East Windsor Fire Company Deputy Chief Jay Laughlin said.
Laughlin told NBC10 it's been a while since he's seen flooding that bad.
"Last time we saw flooding like this was Hurricane Sandy and everyone knows how bad that was," he said.
While a tornado was not confirmed in the Lehigh Valley, there was widespread storm damage, including at least three damaged buildings at the intersection of Leithsville Road and Weavers Lane in Hellertown, damaged school buses at Northern Lehigh High School in Slatington, and downed trees in Washington Township.
Mary Kunkle of Washington Township, Lehigh County, was inside when the storm ripped through her yard.
“We were in the sunroom watching TV, and the wind started to blow. The rain came and we couldn’t see anything. And at that point we jumped up because we couldn’t even see out the window. And at that point everything was falling and the wind was blowing up on the canopy," she said. "When it all subsided, this is the remains of what was left.”
The first round of showers with a few embedded thunderstorms began hitting the region between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. The storms weren't severe.
The second, much more dangerous round of storms, moved in Thursday afternoon.
The storms moved out of the region around 11 p.m.
The NWS said Friday morning it was going to survey several parts of the region for storm damage.