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Fishers Island tornado upgraded to EF1, National Weather Service says

A video posted to Twitter shows a tornado that touched down Monday morning on Fishers Island. Initially classified as an EF0 tornado, the lowest level grade, it actually brought winds estimated up to 90 mph and did damage consistent with the next level up, EF1, the National Weather Service said. Credit: Brian Faulkner via eweather

The tornado that touched down Monday morning on Fishers Island, at the eastern end of the Long Island Sound, was upgraded to an EF1, the next to the lowest category, according to a crew of National Weather Service meteorologists who assessed the site Tuesday.

Touching down a quarter mile or so east of Wilderness Point around 7:35 a.m., the twister spent 6 minutes on land, cut a two mile path, and moved off the Island a half mile east of Clay Point, the weather service’s report said.

At its strongest, with estimated wind speeds of 90 mph, it snapped and twisted large hardwood trees, several of which were downed and uprooted, the report said. A large branch fell through a garage roof and another damaged the roof of a nearby home.

Photos posted on social media show several wood-framed buildings toppled or pulled off their foundation. No deaths were reported,

“It was a bit surreal,” said John C. Finan, president of Fishers Island Utility Company.

Having been “on high alert” for Saturday's nor’easter, “we fully believed we were in the clear, until 7:30 in the morning” when a tornado “came out of nowhere.”

Trees toppled some lines, taking out power for about 6 hours on the eastern end of the island, Finan said. That area is populated primarily by seasonal residents, most of whom had departed.

Line workers patched the three poles affected to restore power, he said, with the next step to replace those poles.

“Mutual aid” is being provided by Groton Utilities, set to do an assessment this week and provide workers to do the job, hopefully next week, he said. The island, a hamlet in the Town of Southold, is geographically close to the Connecticut coast.

This year has been an active one, tornado-wise, said Carlie Buccola, weather service meteorologist in Upton. There have been 12 confirmed twisters in the region the Upton office covers, including Monday’s and one Oct. 2 that affected Ronkonkoma. The office covers the metropolitan area, parts of southern Connecticut, the lower Hudson Valley, and areas of northeastern New Jersey.

In all, Long Island has seen 30 tornadoes from 1950 to 2015, according to the weather service.

The twister’s timing was actually fortunate, as Fishers Island’s year-round population of 250 or so can swell to 3,000 to 4,000 in the summer, Finan said.

His take-away from the event, he said, relates to witnessing “so many community members jump in and do what needed to be done, no questions asked! Truly a remarkable place to call home.”

With Robert Brodsky

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