Second tornado caps off strange weather week in Mt. Laurel

After the first confirmed tornado in Burlington County in 15 years touched down in Mt. Laurel on July 6, a second twister struck the region just five days later.

A pine tree sits split in two in an open space along South Lake Drive near the intersection with Sumac Court in the Birchfield neighborhood of Mt. Laurel. The tree was one of several that were either snapped or uprooted when an EF1 tornado touched down and caused a 1.3-mile path of damage in Ramblewood and Birchfield last Thursday.

Mt. Laurel was the home of the first tornado to touch down in Burlington county since 2004 on July 6 as an EF0 tornado landed near the Mt. Laurel Industrial Plaza located on Gaither Drive between Interstate 295 and the New Jersey Turnpike.

It wouldn’t take another 15 years for another tornado to hit Burlington County. In fact, it would take five days, with another tornado touching down in the same town and less than a mile from where the July 6 tornado landed.

On July 11 at 7:18 p.m., a confirmed EF1 tornado touched down and caused damage in the Ramblewood and Birchfield neighborhoods in Mt. Laurel. No injuries were reported in either instance, but seeing two tornadoes touch down within a week of each other in an area where tornadoes are very rare was surprising even to meteorologists.

“As far as we know, it’s never happened here,” said Jonathan O’Brien, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It’s probably more of a statistical coincidence.”

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The two tornadoes were both low in intensity, but the way they formed was very different. While the July 6 event was described as a landspout tornado, O’Brien said Thursday’s twister formed in a more conventional manner.

“It was more classic in that it did form from a rotating thunderstorm,” O’Brien said.

A tornado warning was issued shortly after 7:15 p.m. as weather officials detected rotation on radar in a thunderstorm traveling over the area where the tornado landed. It was around that time when National Weather Service officials say a tornado touched down in an open area at Ramblewood Country Club.

The tornado was on the ground for a little more than a mile, according the weather service’s preliminary investigation. After crossing the golf course, it entered a wooded area and into Ramblewood, where tree damage was reported along roads such as Yorktown Drive and Holiday Street.

The tornado later crossed Church Street into Birchfield, where numerous trees were brought down and many large branches fell. Some of the streets listed in the report included a large tree being snapped near Marigold Court and Lake Drive and a couple of trees being uprooted along Meadowrue Drive. Some soffit and gutter damage was reported at some apartment buildings and near the golf course a hardwood tree snapped off onto a house. No injuries were initially reported as a result of the storm.

While Thursday’s tornado warning stretched northwest up toward Hainesport, all of the damage appears limited to a small portion of Mt. Laurel.

“It formed within a cluster of thunderstorms that we had been tracking for a while,” O’Brien said. “Most of the damage seemed to be concentrated.”

Weather officials preach safety when tornado warnings are issued. If possible, anyone near a tornado should take shelter in the nearest sturdy structure. The safest place to stay during a tornado is a basement or interior room on the lowest floor of a building.