A preliminary survey conducted by a National Weather Service team based out of Mt. Holly New Jersey has determined that an EF-1 tornado struck Womelsdorf Saturday afternoon, April 22, 2023.
According to the National Weather Service, the winds of the tornado were estimated to be 90 mph, with a path length of 1.0 mile at a width of 125 yards, beginning at 4:18pm and ending at 4:20pm.
A line of severe thunderstorms produced the brief tornado, which was in addition to scattered straight line wind damage that occurred across other portions of southeastern Pennsylvania.
The tornado began less than a mile southwest of Womelsdorf along PA Route 419 between Memorial Boulevard and Brickplant Road just over the Berks and Lebanon County line where a few old wooden telephone poles were pushed over.
The tornado continued northeast through a field toward the Conrad Weiser West Elementary School. A few softwood trees in a tree line were snapped or uprooted along the property line of the field and the school. This is the location where the tornado reached its maximum estimated winds of 90 mph and maximum width of approximately 125 yards.
The tornado continued across the school grounds and into a recreational field where a set of metal bleachers was blown over. The tornado then moved northeast into the central part of Womelsdorf where varying degrees of minor damage occurred to structures and trees, mainly between 3rd Street and 2nd Street as the tornado crossed Cherry Alley, High Street, Mulberry Alley, and Franklin Street.
Several homes, garages, and barns had roofing material blow off, several small trees were uprooted, and numerous downed large tree branches caused some collateral structural damage to some homes and vehicles.
The tornadic circulation began to weaken considerably as it crossed 2nd Street north of Franklin Street near Pear Alley where some additional minor tree damage occurred. The tornado dissipated as it moved into the Womelsdorf Union Cemetery.
Berks County was under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at the time. Many areas in the County reported wind damage, including downed trees and utility poles, causing several roads to be temporarily closed.
Why wasn’t a Tornado Warning issued? The Nation Weather Service did not specifically address the reason in the preliminary storm survey, but we do know that the radar which primarily serves Berks County, KDIX, based in Mt. Holly New Jersey, was down for scheduled maintenance and equipment upgrades at the time of the storm.
In the report, the National Weather Service thanked the Berks County Department of Emergency Services, Mr. Lou Ruh, and other Skywarn Spotters for providing assistance with the preliminary survey.