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Powerful Tornado in Upstate New York is State's Second-Deadliest

The tornado that carved a destructive path in upstate New York on Tuesday night was the second-deadliest in the state since at least 1950 — and may be among the most powerful locally recorded, meteorologists say. Four people were killed, including a mother and her 4-month-old baby, when the tornado touched down around 7:15 p.m. in Smithfield, east of Syracuse. Officials said homes were ripped from their foundations, debris was scattered across several surrounding counties and about 40,000 were still without power Wednesday afternoon.

While New York might see four or five tornadoes a year, they aren’t often classified as an EF-2 or higher on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which ranks a twister’s strength. The National Weather Service was continuing to assess the damage, but said the latest tornado could be at least an EF-2 — categorized by winds of 113 mph to 157 mph. Madison County last saw a tornado, an EF-2, in 2009. The deadliest in the state occurred in 1989 in Orange County, where nine elementary schoolchildren were crushed by a falling cafeteria wall. Tuesday’s tornado pulled one home from the ground and dropped it hundreds of feet away on another house, police said. “This is one for the books,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Evans.

Image:
A woman walks through debris of a destroyed house after Tuesday night's storm, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, in Smithfield, N.Y. The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado destroyed the homes in upstate New York where four people were killed. Mike Groll / AP

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— Erik Ortiz