Strong EF-3 tornado hits Bridgeville, Delaware – state’s strongest in over 60 years

Delaware hit with strong EF-3 tornado -- the strongest since 1961

The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed that the city of Bridgeville in Delaware was hit by a strong EF-3 tornado on Saturday, April 1, 2023, making it the strongest tornado in the state since 1961.

A line of severe thunderstorms swept through the Delaware region on Saturday night, April 1, 2023, resulting in a total of 10 tornadoes. Eight of these tornadoes occurred in New Jersey, one in Pennsylvania, and one in Delaware.

All of them were part of a major tornado outbreak over a wide area of the Midwest and South in which at least 99 tornadoes were produced and at least 32 people killed.1

The Bridgeville-Ellendale Tornado tornado, rated EF-3, hit Bridgeville around 17:59 EDT (21:59 UTC), causing significant damage along its 23 km (14.3 miles) path, which ended in Ellendale, Delaware, around 18:19 EDT (22:19 UTC).

It had an estimated peak wind speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) and a maximum path width of 640 m (700 yards). One fatality occurred from this tornado.

RatingEF-3
Estimated peak wind225 km/h (140 mph)
Path length (statute)23 km (14.3 miles)
Path width (maximum)640 m (700 yards) (0.4 miles)
Fatalities1
Injuries0
Start dateApril 1, 2023
Start time (UTC)21:59
Start locationBridgeville / Sussex County / DE
Start lat/lon38.7570, -75.6398
End dateApril 1, 2023
End time (UTC)22:19
End locationEllendale / Sussex County / DE
End lat/lon38.8180, -75.3892
Bridgeville-Ellendale Tornado — April 1, 2023

The tornado began near the intersection of Polk Road and Dublin Hill Road, where a section of a small barn roof was blown off. The tornado continued east-northeast, crossing Seashore Highway, where a couple of wooden power poles were blown down, and several trees uprooted or snapped. A tree fell onto a house, causing significant collateral roof damage. The tornado continued eastward paralleling Newton Road, where a farmstead sustained significant tree damage. Farther east, more tree damage and snapped power poles were observed.

YouTube video

Near the intersection of Precious Lane and Newton Road, a two-story house collapsed after appearing to have slid off its foundation. A small outbuilding was also severely damaged nearby, and debris from this area was blown several hundred yards east into nearby fields. Another farmstead was struck by the tornado as it continued east on Dale Farm Road. A large barn had two exterior walls blown out, and a smaller shed was blown over. Several trees were also snapped or uprooted on the property.

The tornado continued east, crossing a railroad track and impacting a Delaware Department of Transportation facility, where it reached its estimated peak wind speeds of 225 km/h (140 mph). Along the railroad track, a half dozen or more wooden high-tension power poles were snapped and collapsed, along with two steel high-tension power poles. The Delaware Department of Transportation facility sustained significant damage. A maintenance garage building experienced a collapse of an exterior wall and a large portion of its roof. Two smaller garage buildings nearby experienced several garage doors were blown out, roofing material removal, and exterior wall damage. A building storing road salt had its roof destroyed. The facility’s office building had a few windows blown out, siding, and roofing material blown off. Some of the siding material was found embedded into the ground downstream where a Delaware Environmental Observing System mesonet gauge measured a 158 km/h (98 mph) wind gust at 3 meters (10 feet) above the ground at 18:05 EDT (22:05 UTC).

The tornado continued across a field, then crossed US Route 13, where a few utility poles were snapped, and continued east into a wooded area where significant tree damage occurred. Numerous trees were snapped, one of which fell onto a double-wide manufactured home. After continuing through the wooded area, the tornado emerged into a field and dissipated just after turning over an irrigation pivot near Hummingbird Road and Benson Road.

YouTube video

The strongest tornado on record in Delaware struck on April 28, 1961, in New Castle. It had an F3 rating based upon it having destroyed a 33 cm (13 inch) wall of a warehouse and having tossed large doors from the warehouse two blocks away. It also damaged several house roofs.

The longest track tornado on record in Delaware struck Kent and New Castle Counties on August 4, 2020, during Tropical Storm “Isaias”. It traveled 57.1 km (35.5 miles) from the area of Dover to near Glasgow and had an intensity of EF-2. The two widest tornadoes previously on record in Delaware were the EF-2 tornadoes that struck the state on August 4, 2020, during Tropical Storm “Isaias”, both of which had widths of 457 m (500 yards).

Historically, Delaware has gone multiple years without any tornadoes, only to then have multiple occurrences in a short time. There were no tornadoes for about 7 years between September 28, 2004, and August 27, 2011.

Delaware had 5 tornadoes in a single day during Tropical Storm “Isaias,” the most daily on record. The most in a year were 6 in 1992 and 2020.

References:

1 Major tornado outbreak — Large and destructive tornadoes hit Little Rock and Wynne, Arkansas – The Watchers – April 1, 2023

2 Public Information Statement – National Weather Service – Mount Holly NJ – 816 PM EDT Mon Apr 3 2023

Featured image credit: Center for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis

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