WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The storm that ravaged the Arena Hub area Wednesday night was an EF2 tornado with winds up to 130 mph, according to National Weather Service estimates released Thursday.
While its strength was more intense than other twisters that have struck Northeastern Pennsylvania, tornadoes are not strangers to the region.
Tornadoes are classified according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which is a set of wind estimates — not measurements — based on damage. The scale ranges from an EF0, which starts at 65 mph, up to an EF5, which can top 200 mph.
An EF2, or strong tornado, has winds between 111 and 135 mph, so the storm which struck here was at the upper end of that scale.
The tornado touched down about 10 p.m. near La-Z-Boy at Mundy Street and Highland Park Boulevard by the Wyoming Valley Mall, and traveled southeast toward I-81 before dissipating, an official weather service statement said.
David Nicosia, coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton, N.Y., said the path of the tornado was about three quarters of a mile, and the funnel was about 150 yards wide. It cut a path up to 200 yards wide.
The assessment is preliminary and subject to change pending final review of the event, NWS officials added.
Nicosia said his team was also headed to Bear Creek on Thursday to assess whether there was a touchdown in that area.
A long history
Either way, he also sought to dispel the frequently repeated mantra: “This isn’t supposed to happen here.”
“This area does get tornadoes,” Nicosia said. “People don’t think that we do, but we do.”
Some storms that have made headlines:
• December 2006 — An F2 tornado left a 26-mile path of damage across Luzerne County. The hardest-hit areas were in Fairview and Wright townships, near Mountain Top.
• May 1998 — A tornado packing winds of up to 200 mph sucked an elderly woman and her grandson out of a Lemon Township trailer as it cut a path through Bradford and Wyoming counties. Houses near Lake Carey were hardest hit.
• July 1984 — A 75-mph downburst, spawned as a tornado in Sweet Valley, devastated areas around Harveys Lake.
• August 1914 — A tornado tore through Wilkes-Barre City and Township, killing six people and injuring 55 within minutes.
• August 1890 — Sixteen people were killed in the city and 15 more seriously injured when a tornado struck Wilkes-Barre. Records show 260 buildings, residences, stores, schools, churches, factories, public and railroad buildings were damaged with some totally destroyed.
For more on Wednesday’s tornado, click here.