Residents ‘shocked’ to have EF0 tornado touch down in their backyards

Mullica Hill was the site of South Jersey's first confirmed tornado in a long time after a storm passed through the area.

Eight minutes stood between receiving a tornado warning and a tornado touching down in Mullica Hill along Route 322. Residents now urge others to heed warnings.

We got a notification to take shelter immediately,” said Alexandra Ranra, whose property sustained damage from the tornado. “My husband went out to the garage to see anything. The tornado touched down eight minutes after we got the warning, and we couldn’t tie anything down.”

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly confirmed an EF0, winds from 65 to 85 miles per hour, tornado touched down in Mullica Hill near Saddle Court on June 13 around 8:15 p.m. Another tornado, an EF1 with winds from 86 to 110 miles per hour, was confirmed by the weather service in Deptford Township and Blackwood around 8:30 p.m.

The weather service said more damage was done in Deptford and Blackwood to homes having downed trees on them, downed power lines and a tree uprooting and damaging a Blackwood apartment building. No injuries or fatalities were reported in either tornado.

Jonathan O’Brien, meteorologist at the NWS, said this is the first tornado to touch down in South Jersey in a while as many other portions of the Delaware Valley had confirmed reports this year.

Any time you get a rotation of the clouds, that’s the indication a tornado could be forming,” O’Brien said.

He added most thunderstorms in the area do not produce tornadoes, and the storm on June 13 wasn’t accompanied by thunder and lightning due to the system being in a shallow point in the atmosphere.

We get a lot of winds, but it was something unique for us,” Lou DiBacco, whose video was used by the weather service to confirm the tornado, said. “It was almost mesmerizing because you couldn’t look away. I would never expect to see it in New Jersey. It makes you think about how the weather is changing and even in the backyard.”

Ranra said her pool fence, deck fence and railings, tables, chairs trampoline and swing set were damaged in the storm. Some items were picked up by the tornado, but were never dropped back down into her yard.

DiBacco said this was the first tornado he’s seen that was confirmed as many past instances were ruled to be “straight line winds.” Aside from witnessing the tornado, DiBacco said it also provided his video with “15 minutes of fame.”

We made national news at the national NBC station and it was pretty cool,” he said. “The coolest part was my friend who’s stationed in Afghanistan saw it on the military news network and he saw my backyard.”

For Ranra, she said the video, captured by her surveillance camera, was “interesting and cool,” but in hindsight she would have preferred to be anonymous as she had news teams stationed near her home.

Besides keeping TVs on full volume to hear more information about tornado warnings, O’Brien said people should head straight to their basements or lowest level in their homes, away from windows, and keep their smartphones handy.

We’re happy that everyone’s safe and the things that were damaged could be replaced, but not human life,” DiBacco said. “Heed those warnings and get to a safe place.