EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Summertime in Southern New England brings a fair share of severe weather, including tornadoes.

According to NOAA, Rhode Island on average sees less than one tornado a year. Neighboring Massachusetts averages one tornado a year.

Southern New England isn’t immune to tornadoes. On July 23, an EF-1 tornado with winds of 110 mph touched down on the mid-Cape. Fortunately, no was injured.

Rhode Island’s last reported tornado occurred last October. In fact, two tornadoes were confirmed, an EF-0 in North Providence, and an EF-1 in Lincoln.

Tornadoes are rated on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, from EF-0 to EF-5. Similar to hurricanes which are rated on the Saffir Simpson Scale.


Now, the first thing you need to know when it comes to tornadoes is the difference between a watch & warning.

A ‘Tornado Watch’ is issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form. Take this time to review your severe weather safety plan. Also, reach out to loved ones and remind them of the potential danger.

A ‘Tornado Warning’ is only issued if a tornado has been spotted on the ground, or if it’s been spotted via rotation on the radar.

When the warning is issued you need to implement your severe weather plan immediately.

  • Seek shelter in your basement, get under a sturdy piece of furniture or a staircase.
  • If you don’t have a basement, seek shelter on the lowest level of your building. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
  • If you live in a mobile or manufactured home, you should evacuate to a sturdy building. Even a weak tornado can easily overturn the home.
  • You can protect yourself from flying debris by covering yourself with blankets, pillows, or a mattress.
  • If you are driving you should seek shelter in a nearby sturdy building. But, if that isn’t an option pull off to the side of the road. Leave your seatbelt on and duck down below the windows.

Fortunately, the majority of our tornadoes are weak, causing mostly tree and roof damage. But, large and destructive tornadoes have happened. Several years ago, an EF-3 tornado struck western & central Massachusetts.

The tornado touched down in Westfield, traveling 39-miles to Charlton, caused $140-million in damages, and killed three people.

That tornado dissipated 14-miles northwest of Burrillville, R.I.


Remember to remain calm, panicking will exacerbate the situation. Make your severe weather plan today.

Make sure to download our WPRI-12 Weather App, that way when Mother Nature is at her worst our team of meteorologist can help provide the information you need to stay you safe.