GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 2, 2013

Dodging a bullet

Cape Ann escapes brunt of storms, tornado warnings

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — A series of storms, complete with rotation sightings that triggered a series of tornado warnings from the National Weather Service, rumbled across Cape Ann and created some anxious moments across the North Shore Monday.

But despite reports of sleet and pellets of hail in Essex, and surface flooding on roadways — including on Route 128 off Causeway Street just south of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge — Cape Ann dodged the meteorological bullet.

From kayaks and dinghies on Conomo Point, to lawn chairs left out on Story Street, there was little to no damage caused by storms yesterday, despite tornado warnings that spurred emergency broadcast service messages and cell-phone texts from just before 3 p.m. to 4:30.

On Story Street, Erik L’Italien was sitting on his front steps as his mother, Gerri Konopka, popped her head out to give updates she was getting from TV news coverage.

“It’s going to hit at 4:23,” she said.

But while there were reports of funnel clouds passing over head, the worst weather Essex received was rain, sleet, minor flooding and swirling water.

“I don’t know what they are warning me for,” L’Italien said. “There is nothing out there.”

He said he had been in touch with friends from Danvers and the surrounding area, warning him of an oncoming tornado that was expected to hit Essex at the time.

“I’m in Essex, this is where it’s supposed to be,” he said.

Nearby, Susan St. Pierre was outside with her dog, and was on her way back from Dunkin Donuts when she first heard the news of the expected tornado.

St. Pierre jokingly said she was considering changing her dog’s name from Murphy to Toto, in honor of the dog in “The Wizard of Oz” that broke free in the face of the approaching Kansas twister.

She said she thought the storm was hyped up.

“(It rained) maybe five minutes, if that,” she said Monday afternoon.

While a tornado or other storm watch means that the conditions are in place for a possible tornado formation, a tornado warning means that a funnel cloud has been sighted, either on its own or within passing severe storms. In Monday’s case, the threat did not come from a traditional tornado, like residents of the Midwest of Southwest see coming across the plains, but from confirmed rotation sightings carried by a line of storms that were capable, at any minute, of touching down. One cloud from the same line of storms had touched down and destroyed a sports complex just outside of Hartford, Conn., earlier Monday afternoon, and there were reports of another funnel cloud touching down outside of Lowell, but there were no reports of any injuries.

in Essex, identified as in the path of the first wave of storms, people were riding their bikes down the Main Street Causeway or driving down rainy streets.

On Conomo Point Road, Scott Dunsmore and Paige Marshall, 10, were playing with Scott’s dog, Sage.

Dunsmore said there was no trace of any tornado.

“It came right through here, these two land masses used to be connected,” he and Paige’s father Peter Marshall said, jokingly pointing to across the Essex Bay.

Apple Street Farm, however, was hit by damaging rainfall. Employee Phoebe Poole said some broccoli and tomato crops were briefly left underwater.

Poole said the soil is tough to work with in rain, not only is it rocky, it is clay like underneath, which makes the water disperse slower.

In the end, L’Italien took the dire weather warnings in stride.

“Don’t panic until there is a reason to panic,” L’Italien said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.