NWS confirms EF-2 tornado hit Mercer County, New Jersey; witness says it was 'like Wizard of Oz'

In total, about 100 properties were damaged and 60 residents have been displaced.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023
NWS confirms EF-2 tornado hit Mercer County
The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-2 tornado touched down in Mercer County on Feb. 21, 2023.

WEST WINDSOR TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- The National Weather Service has confirmed an EF-2 tornado touched down in Mercer County on Tuesday afternoon.

The tornado, which was on the ground for about 5.8 miles through the Quaker Bridge area of Mercer County, had estimated wind speeds of 110 to 115 miles per hour.

The NWS said the tornado began at about 3:35 p.m. in Lawrence Township and moved into West Windsor Township at 3:41 p.m.

Crews worked to remove large trees that were torn down by a tornado that ripped through Mercer County.

The storm left behind a trail of destruction that was being cleaned up on Wednesday across Lawrence Square Village in Lawrence Township.

"I've been here for a lot of years. I've never seen nothing like this," said Rawle Bowen of Lawrence Twp.

"I heard the thunder first. No lightning, just thunder. Then the rain came, and then the wind came right after that - but it was the strongest wind I ever felt," said Sheran Boddie of Lawrence Twp.

The view from Chopper 6 over Village and Quaker Bridge roads in West Windsor Twp. showed multiple large trees on the ground. Some were uprooted, while others were snapped.

Significant damage could be seen in part of Mercer County, New Jersey after a tornado warning was issued on Tuesday afternoon.

Robert Galasso now has a tree on top of his West Windsor home and directly in front of his front door.

"We have another big tree that hit our back porch and is laying on the house, on the roof. Luckily, no roof damage," said Galasso.

He said hid in his bathtub with his toddler son as the tornado ripped through.

"Probably for about 30 to 45 seconds. We didn't really know what was going to happen. We were just hoping for the best," said Galasso.

Hail and high winds also caused extensive damage to commercial buildings and several vehicles.

Carol Jefferson, who lives in the Lawrence Square complex, said it only took a minute for the storm to do the damage.

"All of a sudden you'd hear more crashing and you're think, 'Oh my God, what could it be now?'" Jefferson said. "That's when the great, big, huge 40-year-old trees are either being snapped in half or uprooted."

West Windsor police said roughly 100 properties sustained some sort of damage, but that there was no structural damage to any homes.

However, there were buildings in Lawrence Township with structural damage.

"Could not believe the devastation. It is heartbreaking," said Olive Giles of Lawrence Twp.

As the sky got darker yesterday and the hail started pelting down, residents took shelter in basements and bathrooms.

West Windsor Twp. resident Marilyn Anderson explained that she called for her sister and climbed into the bathtub.

"And then it got real dark. And then things started it. I've never seen the wind blow like I did. It blew so that I said, 'Gloria- let's get in the tub! It's a tornado!'" Anderson said. "All the trees...The roofing had come down on the side, because we live on the first level. Girl, it was like 'Wizard of Oz.'"

We spoke to Ruthanne Lennon-Collins, who lives on Quakerbridge Road with her adult son. She, like many other neighbors, said the storm came with little warning.

"I'm looking out the back window and I see my shed lift off the ground and fly in the air. I said, 'This is no hail storm,'" Lennon-Collins said.

"I'm looking out the back window and I see my shed lift off the ground and fly in the air. I said, 'This is no hail storm,'" said one resident.

"By the time I got to the door it knocked us on the floor," she said. "It was a big boom.. the windows shattered, everything. You could just tell it came through."

Lennon-Collins, her son and grandson ended up crawling to the basement of her home.

"And (my son is) down there holding me and his baby," she said.

The staff inside of Salon Cusato, located on Quakerbridge Road, had to take cover.

"It started pouring like crazy. The wind kicked up and the doors were flying open," said salon owner Mark Cusato.

"I was petrified. I was under the desk...It was scary," said employee Lisa Evanko.

So far, no injuries have been reported.

The 6abc AccuWeather Team said there have only been four tornadoes on record in New Jersey during the month of February. The last was in 1999 around Cherry Hill.

The Red Cross and Volunteers of America responded to the scene and are providing assistance for displaced residents. Any resident seeking assistance should contact the Lawrence police or 1-800-Red-Cross.

Officials are asking people to avoid areas where you see crews working whether it's tree removal or utilities.