The topography of the Interstate 88 corridor where tornadoes struck Thursday and in 2013 creates a “funnel zone” that is fertile ground for violent storms.
The hilly area near routes 20 and 7 can trap colder air, which collides with warmer/humid air in a storm alley to produce volatile results, according to the National Weather Service.
“The way the topography is in the area, sometimes you get warm, humid air from Central New York and colder air to the east,” said Kevin Lipton, a weather service meteorologist.
If the wind is from the south or southeast, Lipton continued, the colder, denser air trapped in the hills collides with the warmer, humid air — the recipe for ferocious storms and tornadoes.
“There is a little funnel zone in that area that allows thunderstorms to form,” he said. “Schoharie and Schenectady [counties] can trap that cool air in place.”
Thursday’s storm cut a swath through Duanesburg roughly 10 miles from where a May 29, 2013, tornado struck Schenectady County, a twister that also touched down in Schoharie and Montgomery counties. The storm that struck at 3:33 p.m. Thursday registered as an F3, according to the National Weather Service, which surveyed the damage Friday as a means of ascertaining the type of winds and velocity that wreaked havoc. Maximum winds are estimated to have hit 140 mph.
According to the Tornado History Project, this was the 39th tornado to strike the seven-county area since 1959. Shockingly, there were no reported deaths from any. Lipton noted that tornadoes in the Northeast tend not to be as strong as those in the South or Midwest, where scores of fatalities have been recorded over the years.
The strongest tornado to strike the region since 1959 was an F4 that hit Montgomery, Schoharie, Albany and Greene counties on July 10, 1989, leaving 20 people injured. Sixty-eight injuries were reported in the F3 Mechanicville tornado of May 31, 1998.
Saratoga, Fulton and Montgomery counties have each been hit with eight tornadoes over that 55-year span.