The National Weather Service reviewed photos of the weekend wind damage in Washington County to rule out a possible tornado and said the extreme damage was the work of a narrow “wind field” of hurricane-force gusts that caused damage from western New York to Maine.
At least one gust of 70 mph was measured in eastern New York, and sustained winds of 60 mph were common as storms preceding a cold front marched across the Northeast in combination with a low pressure system that tracked through the St. Lawrence River Valley.
Steve DiRienzo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said those combined storms allowed winds that would normally stay aloft to get down to the ground, and those winds were to blame for much of the damage Friday and Saturday.
Part of it was a “wind field” that was about as wide as Saratoga County and went through Fulton, Saratoga and Washington counties, wasting trees and utility lines and poles in its path. Numerous homes and vehicles were damaged by debris as well.
It caused the worst damage locally in Cambridge and Hebron, including hillsides of flattened trees off Route 30 in West Hebron. Weather service personnel reviewed photos submitted by the Washington County Department of Public Safety, as there were too many areas where damage occurred to visit them all.
DiRienzo said the front continued out to sea after going through New England as well.
“It went from Buffalo to the coast of New Hampshire and Portland, Maine,” he said. “There were multiple 60-plus mile per hour reports and even one 70 miles per hour report.”
It was unclear why winds in the field caused more damage in some places than others, but topography may have played a part, DiRienzo noted.
While the destruction was bad in some places, there would have been more tree damage had the spring green-up arrived already. Trees offered less resistance to wind without leaves.
“Luckily the leaves weren’t on the trees, or it would have been worse,” DiRienzo said.
It was the third bad windstorm in eastern New York in less than two months, and the lingering cold weather likely played a part, as winter winds are typically stronger.
A few dozen power outages lingered locally for National Grid customers on Tuesday, mainly in remote areas of northern Warren and western Saratoga counties, but they were expected to be rectified by Tuesday afternoon.