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Three Tornadoes Wallop Rhode Island in Two Days

August 8, 1986

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ The third tornado in two days struck near Rhode Island’s capital city Friday, tearing a two-mile swath of destruction as it tore down trees and power lines.

No injuries were reported from the twister, which hit North Smithfield, about 15 miles from Providence, shortly after 11 a.m.

About 20 people suffered minor injuries when a tornado hit downtown Providence on Thursday evening, causing damage estimated in the millions of dollars. A tornado struck the town of Cumberland about 90 minutes before the Providence storm.

Tornadoes are rare for Rhode Island because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, whose cool breezes negate the vertical buildup of winds necessary for the whirling storms.

″Up until this week, we’ve had about one tornado every 80 years,″ said Frank Ramella, who retired last month as chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Warwick.

Friday’s tornado touched down in neighboring Burrillville, tore a half- mile-wide path through North Smithfield and crossed the border into Millville, Mass., said Peter Branconnier of the local Civil Defense office.

Heavy winds and hail destroyed 80 percent of the crop from an apple orchard, tore down trees and snapped telephone polls, he said. Two homes were damaged by falling trees.

Officials in Providence and neighboring Cranston reported the most severe property damage from Thursday’s storms, and Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. said he would ask for a federal disaster declaration.

The top floor of a four-story brick building in Providence was ripped off, a Cranston house was moved 12 feet off its foundation and over the Providence line, and dozens of other homes and businesses reported broken windows and other damage. The tornado also flipped cars and knocked over a tractor-trailer truck.

Parts of Rhode Island were hit by more than five inches of rain in two days.

The Providence storm caught the city off guard when it touched down around near the Cranston border, bounded across Interstate 95 and slammed into the Broad Street area.

About 6,000 homes lost power, but almost all electricity was restored in Providence and neighboring communities by Friday afternoon.

Local and state cleanup crews worked through the day to remove branches and other wreckage from roads around all the affected communities, and state troopers were helping local police block off roads and reroute traffic.

Twisters are far more likely over the border in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, Ramella said, because of hills and small mountains that help to sweep the air into a funnel.

″But that’s during normal conditions,″ he said. ″If weather always behaved normally, we wouldn’t need forecasters.″

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