On Tuesday, July 23, a rare tornado touched down on South Yarmouth and Dennis in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, shortly after a tornado warning was first issued in the area. After the tornado passed and the warning was lifted, people in the area left their homes to evaluate the damage caused by the unexpected weather.
As a storm system moved through Massachusetts Tuesday morning, a tornado warning was set in place for Massachusetts’s Barnstable County until 12:45pm ET. According to NECN, the warning urged residents in the area to “to take cover immediately, moving to a basement or interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.”
The tornado warning was first issued after a waterspout was produced Tuesday morning southwest of Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth. NWS radar later confirmed that a tornado did, in fact, touch down at Trotting Park Road and Lower County Road near Route 28 in South Yarmouth around 12:05 p.m, only 40 minutes before the warning was set to be lifted.
Locals Documented the Damage Once the Tornado Passed
We spoke to Effie Orfanides, a Heavy.com contributor who was in the area and “lived through” the tornado. She said “It sounded like an awful howling. Like a train.” She added that, following the tornado, there was no power in most of the town and “very little cell service.” Police were urging people to stay inside for their own safety, even after the warning was lifted.
Orfanides was on the scene to take photos of the aftermath. In one photo, you can see that trees were splintered at their trunks and knocked to the ground by the intense winds, landing on the street and a nearby house as they fell.
In another photo provided by Orfanides, a telephone pole has fallen across a road and wires are down, preventing use of the road in either direction and likely contributing to the limited access to power in the affected area.
The Cape Cod Chronicle shared a photo of the aftermath, reporting that multiple trees and wires were down in the area and warning locals to “stay off the road.”
Some Brave Residents Took Videos of the Tornado as it Was Occurring
Anthony Piccoli shared a scary video clip on Twitter, taken from the inside of a car during the tornado. The clip, which he described as capturing “insane wind damage in South Yarmouth,” shows large branches being thrown off of trees as wind and rain rips through the area.
Ed Kelley of Sundancer’s of West Dennis captured part of the tornado’s path on video. The clip, shared to Twitter by Tim Kelley, tracks the tornado as it crosses Bass River.
This Was the First Tornado to Hit Cape Cod in Years
As news of the tornado spread, many began to wonder when the last time was that a tornado hit that part of the northeast, where tornados are uncommon. Matt Hoenig pointed out that though the area “had small spin-ups and waterspouts in more recent years,” the last true reported tornado was August 22, 1971, “when an EF-1 tornado touched down near the Barnstable Municipal Airport.” F1 indicates a low-level tornado based on the 0-5 Fujita scale.
In 2011, a trio of tornados ravaged western Massachusetts in Hamden and Worcester counties, killing 3 people and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. According to MassLive.com, although Massachusetts tornados are infrequent they prove the most deadly “because of this state’s large population density and relatively small land area,” which makes “the deaths per square mile” higher than any other state.
No deaths had been reported from the July 23, 2019 tornado at the time of publication.