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Tornadoes: a New Normal for Rhode Island?

Rhode Island has several identifying factors as a state; whether it be Del’s, Iggy’s Doughboys, or decrepit roads, there are several things with which Rhode Island is synonymous. Over the past few months, a new event is looking to make its way into this elite company: tornadoes. Now yes, Rhode Island has not exactly morphed into Tornado Valley overnight, however, the recent uptick in one of the most destructive natural disasters is alarming. Here are the numbers:


Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 1950-59: 0

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 1960-69: 0

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 1970-79: 1

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 1980-89: 5

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 1990-99: 2

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 2000-09: 2

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 2010-19: 3

Tornadoes in Rhode Island, 2020-Present: 5*

Data Courtesy of and

In 2021, three tornadoes made landfall in Rhode Island, the highest since the 1980s, when a freak event saw a trio touch down in Providence. That fateful day in 1986 was the first time three tornadoes touched down in Rhody on one day in the state’s recorded history. Over two decades passed between the time we would see a decade account for as many tornadoes, nonetheless the span of one day. On August 18th, Rhode Island was launched into new territory when a morning tornado registered as the strongest to make landfall in the state in over three decades. Now, less than a month later, another tornado has made contact with Rhode Island, this time emerging as a greater threat to Lincoln High School. Just ask the press box. 

The idea of wild weather becoming a new normal has left local citizens with mixed opinions. LHS Senior and Lincoln resident Ryan Morin jokingly claimed “I’m sick and tired of these flash flood warnings. I had to swim to work.” Fellow Senior Mahadev Nair views the uptick in tornadoes as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: “I’m gonna go storm chasing,” he exclaimed in an interview following the destructive event. 

So why are we suddenly experiencing these phenomenons in a way never before experienced in Rhode Island (Or, at least, not since the 80s)? Tornadoes are formed in a combat between warm and cool air, and, with the ever-changing weather of New England, these were made possible. Additionally, a warmer climate overall has contributed to an uptick in these natural disasters. As the climate has warmed over the years, higher, warmer air has begun to assimilate in higher quantities. 

Luckily, this newfound trend is not expected to continue. While New England is in the first quarter of hurricane season, the possibility of tornadoes is much decreased as the air temperature cools and winter weather is slowly ushered in through the fall months. However, in a climate which just saw the hottest summer on record registered only several weeks ago, there is a looming possibility that this trend will continue in summers for years to come. 

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