You may never see one in the Quabbin Reservoir, but who knew that you don't need an earthquake to cause a tsunami?
When Tuesday's strong squall line passed through Massachusetts, wind and air pressure formed what is basically a micro-tsunami, known as a meteotsunami, according to Eleanor Vallier-Talbot, a meterologist for the National Weather Service in Norton.
Unlike tsunamis, large waves triggered by earthquakes, meteotsunamis are waves created by air-pressure disturbances often associated with fast-moving weather events such as thunderstorms and squalls. Ms. Vallier-Talbot said meteotsunamis can form in large bodies of water, including oceans and the Great Lakes. She said that although the Quabbin Reservoir is a large body of water, it does not have enough fetch, or distance for the wind and wave to travel, to form a meteotsunami.
Tuesday's meteotsunami was recorded by a weather buoy off the coast of New Jersey. Ms. Vallier-Talbot said the weather service has long known about meteotsunamis, but has been able to get better data in recent years due to an increased number of buoys put in place after the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami that took the lives of more than 227,000 people. With modern technology, the weather service is also able to immediately generate a graphic of the wave. The waves can reach a height of 6 feet, but generally are smaller.
"They are like micro-tsunamis," Ms. Vallier-Talbot said. One that hit the Maine coast in 2008 at Boothbay Harbor and damaged docks.
Trees felled by Tuesday's storm killed several people in Connecticut and New York. There was significant damage in Connecticut from wind and tennis-ball-size hail, and damage in Western Massachusetts from the wind. There was also significant flooding in several areas of southern New England, including on Route 9 in Shrewsbury and at the intersection of Interstate 290 and Route 146 in Worcester.