We'll never know. Working during the outbreak and witnessing the aftermath helped shape my future career as a broadcast meteorologist. The F4 tornado that went through Albion in southeast Erie County first touched down just west of the PA-OH border at 2059z (4:59 PM). National Weather Service 1985 Niles Tornado. It took until 5 through Friday afternoon rush hour traffic to get back to the our office. It was Memorial Day weekend and the traffic was lighter than usual for a Friday. I graduated in 1993 from the University with my BS in Meteorology, and in August of 1993 I began my National Weather Service career in a small Weather Forecast Office in Wichita Falls, TX. Spot Request I remember him saying the question was not whether there was a tornado, but how strong was the tornado? The Allegheny National Forest experienced a large amount of valuable timber loss from these two tornadoes. Advisory/Warning Criteria, Radar 44 tornadoes touched down in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario. As McKean County was put under a tornado warning, I remember broadcasting with more urgency in my voice than ever before that this was not a typical tornado warning. Note the 50Kt ‘flag’ at Buffalo, NY. I forecast for radio stations all over the United States and Canada with a few in PA. Please Contact Us. Counties: LaRue (2002). Regional Weather Map "TORNADO!" It was given a rating of F3 and traveled a short path of 3 miles through parts of Sarasota County. April 5, 1985 Counties: Jefferson IN F-scale: F2 Deaths: Injuries: Path width: Path length: Time: 3:25pm Noted discrepancies: NWS ranks this as an F2, Grazulis does not list it. Path length: 1-Stop Winter Forecast El Nino and La Nina Thinking that someone might need help, we circled over the area for several minutes trying to locate someone but were never able to find anyone. So I was familiar with the Allegheny National Forest and some of the small towns in the area. At any rate, I immediately decided I wanted to be a meteorologist. Local Climate Pages We had colder air aloft moving over the western Great Lakes with a jet max rotating around the south side of the approaching trough. Questions? I was especially saddened to find out that our favorite ice cream stand in Tidioute PA had been destroyed by the tornado that passed through that lovely little town. Path length: A history of twisters: Tornadoes in Pennsylvania 1985 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been tracking tornadoes for decades. Multiple locations were found. Frankly, all we had was a fax with very blurry pictures of perfect hook echoes and the latest severe weather statements and tornado warnings from the National Weather Service. The threat of severe weather was so great that we had actually headlined the possibility in the zone forecasts at 4 AM on the previous midnight shift. Please Contact Us. Submit a Storm Report From 1989 to 1993, I attended Penn State, focusing on a Degree in Meteorology. We also were concerned for the Williamsport area. EMLs act as a ‘lid’ in the atmosphere, stopping convection from occurring unless the lid can be removed or sufficient lift is present. Path width: They were there to get everything ready for the Penn State Department of Meteorology’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion just two weeks later. There was no verification in Clarion, and the county Emergency Manager indicated that it was very dark but not even rain was falling. Of these twenty-one, one was rated an F5, and six were rated F4’s. When you hear the term “violent tornado outbreak,” you probably think of Tornado Alley or Dixie Alley, not Pennsylvania. When I walked in, a coworker handed me a tornado warning for Erie and Crawford counties. Path length: 1 miles Outreach One of the strongest storms of the night moved across Clarion and Jefferson Counties. An additional component to the magnitude of the thunderstorms on May 31st was the presence of a significant “elevated mixed layer” (EML) , a common supporting ingredient in severe weather across the northeastern U.S. (Banacos and Ekster). I remember about 4:00-4:30 in the afternoon a few coming into the Penn State weather station to check on whether the anticipated severe weather outbreak had gotten going. Tornado track of tornado outbreak on May 31, 1985 (NWS, 2019). 1-Stop Drought It had a textbook hook echo, something I had only seen in textbooks up until that time. I was 10 years old and in fifth grade at the time. Please select one of the following: PORTIONS OF THE NORTHERN PANHANDLE. I called the Pennsylvania State Police and they gave me an update on the damage that the tornadoes had caused in our area. Climate Prediction The 4:33 PM radar observation indicated that two cells had fired in Ashtabula County, OH, just west of Erie County, PA. We did, however, receive near real-time visible data satellite imagery on the center's (then) fairly new "CSIS" work stations. The combination of moisture, instability, lift, and wind shear were present across a large area of the northeastern U.S. on May 31st. Injuries: I used up my entire career severe tornado quota on my first severe weather shift as a lead forecaster. Apparently too many came into the small Penn State radar room to witness weather history because the room got so hot that radar overheated and shut down about the time the Moshannon tornado was ending. I constantly post weather tips on my FB page and am a certified NWS spotter. NWS F-scale: F0 Radar images don’t show the actual tornadoes themselves (see the videos in the next section for that), but instead show structures or signatures within the storms that produce tornadoes. I requested that I would like to see the damage from the air as soon as possible. Fort Knox It appeared that one of the tornadoes had touched down north of Tionesta, crossed the Allegheny River, hit the German Hill area, then north of Marienville near the Abraxas Center, and travelled on toward Kane. At first all the action was in Ontario. In reality, a tornado can strike at any time of the year. This process continued from 4pm to about 8pm resulting in serious tornado activity across the entire Erie WSO warning area. Nature can be very, very powerful. We suspected the Canadian storms were bad, but had no way of verifying. I also remember hearing about the possible threat for severe weather from the local TV Mets during the day. Also note the deep closed low north of the Great Lakes. The following sounding is from Dayton, Ohio (DAY) the morning of the 31st. The forecaster even analyzed a dryline (the bumpy blue line through the central Plains) on the 850mb map, showing the leading edge of the dry air. Dr. Forbes subsequently investigated and found tornado damage in Hollenback Township, Luzerne County. SOUTHERN LAKE ONTARIO We pondered these ideas as we briefed the incoming midnight shift. One side story, there was an unusual challenge for us on the Campus Weather Service team that night. In the 28 years I spent at the Pittsburgh office following May 31st until my retirement in 2013, I did not work a single severe weather shift with an F3, F4, or F5 tornado. We could see supercells developing north of Lake Erie and racing northeast. We turned on the TV to our local news and saw the damage pictures pouring in from Newton Falls, a town 15 miles east of Ravenna. Station History Deaths: I was amazed at how that night produced the only F5 tornado to strike PA. That statistic remains so even today. Dr. Greg Forbes (then Penn State faculty and my thesis advisor; now Severe Weather Expert for The Weather Channel) was operating the radar and calling in observations to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. We heard on the radio and television that there were tornado warnings for all of northwestern Pennsylvania as tornadoes were spotted in several areas moving from the west toward the east. Path length: May 31, 1985. 44 tornadoes were counted including 14 in Ontario, Canada. They had their hunting camp in Clearfield County near Parker Dam State Park. My father always listened to the scanner at night and his room was across from mine. We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. Time: 5:00pm Time: 3:25pm The orange shading in the following 850 mb chart (from Markowski) shows where winds were greater than 40Kts (46MPH). After issuing the early Convective Outlook, I went home to bed. It was an alarming yell, so I quickly ran to my window and yelled out to see if he was okay. It shows a pronounced hook echo (center of photo) within the storm moving through Moshannon State Forest about 20 miles north of State College, Centre County. Current Observations and Forecast Graphics, References, Additional Links, and Acknowledgements, Newton Falls, OH (Produced by the Newton Falls HS 1985-1986 AV Class), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I think that was the last tornado of the outbreak. Injuries: I got much of my information from the disc jockeys themselves before they put me on the air. The 300mb level is about 30,000 feet above the ground. 43 tornadoes and numerous damaging thunderstorms tore across Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario. This following two figures from Markowski show 1, the presence of the EML in the 7pm May 31st Pittsburgh sounding and 2, the formation and subsequent migration of the EML across the United States. W. VA I lived 45 minutes away from the office, and it took every bit of that to get back to my farm. Path width: I think it was around 5:00 PM when the Penn State WSR-74C radar starting showing returns (quickly strong ones) from Erie County which was at the edge of the 230-kilometer scan. Bill and I were deeply into severe weather analysis with soundings, and Bill said look at this morning's sounding. June 10, 1985 Keep in mind that this F4 was on the ground for over 60 miles. Twenty-one tornadoes tracked across Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania during the evening of May 31st. This was my first severe weather shift as a lead forecaster. Recreation Forecasts, Past Weather I represented the 65th legislative district which included all of Warren and Forest Counties and the northern third of Venango County. I remember waking up to the thunder and looking out the window. ...I was a grad student at Penn State during the Moshannon tornado outbreak on 31 May 1985. PORTIONS OF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA I agreed to stay to help with the extra workload in the event things started to pop. The Pittsburgh Office did not hear about any of the fatalities from the storms or the extent of the damage until well after 8 PM. I remember remarking that this is the same forecast problem they have in Oklahoma. The wind profile captured by the Pittsburgh, PA sounding at 7am (12Z) Friday, May 31, shows a classic veering of winds with height, from southeasterly at the surface turning to southerly to southwesterly then westerly at mid and upper levels. June 11, 1985 I worked the 4pm-midnight shift on May 31st. Please try another search. Yet here we were at 3:30 in the afternoon and not one shower had popped yet on the radar. While watching television the night of the storms, I remember seeing a national news report about the tornado outbreak. Notes: Storm Data puts this tornado four miles north of Depauw. Daily Temp/Precip Maps Many of us have wondered if the Moshannon tornado reached F5 strength at some point, but it moved only through unpopulated areas (fortunately), so no evidence of F5 damage was found. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. As the storm was entering Clinton County, I got a call for a guy named Greg Forbes, who was sitting at the radar console at Penn State. Injuries: For a couple of days leading up to May 31st there was talk in the Penn State weather station that the weather pattern was taking shape for a severe weather outbreak over Ohio and Pennsylvania. This storm went on to produce a F4 tornado with a track of over 60 miles across portions of Clearfield, Centre, and Clinton counties. Fujita |?| - The Fujita Scale is used to assess the intensity and damage caused by a tornado. Gangat, Rihaan. It was a blur of activity for about three hours and then just as suddenly as it began, it was over. Upon waking up later in the day and hearing the news, I remember being shocked to hear about all of the damage, injuries and fatalities. In this photo taken June 1, 1985, the Hummel Service Station was flattened by a tornado that tore through North Sewickley Township on May 31, … F-scale: F2 The 850mb level is about 5000 feet above the ground. I was nine years old at the time of the tornadoes. I peppered my parents with questions the rest of the night about tornadoes. However, I do have a very clear memory of the weather that day. With the temperature staying in the 60s, it did not feel like a tornado day. Tornado track of tornado outbreak on May 31, 1985 (NWS, 2019). The staff routinely plotted the Pittsburgh RAOB [upper air observations collected via a weather balloon] at 12z and 00z and hung them on the wall at the office. To purchase a high-resolution print of any listed photograph on this page without the visible watermark, E-Mail Us Use the image ID Example: PO1.1023 May 31, 1985 Tornado - … A tornado's war-like path is obvious as the sun slowly sets in Atlantic, Pennsylvania, May 31, 1985. I'll never forget all the sirens going off as it was hitting. Tornado season and the frequency of tornadoes migrates with the sun. Path length: I stayed at the weather station – a good decision. May 31, 1985 was a Friday during the period between spring semester and summer session, but many graduate students remained in town working. A deadly tornado hit the city of Barrie, Ont., on May 31, 1985. US Dept of Commerce Precipitation looks like a hook on the radar returns; showing rain, hail and sometimes debris caused by the tornado, spiraling inward around the tornado circulation. The morning of May 31st featured a great deal of electricity around the office. It wasn't until the following day when I surveyed the damage with Greg Forbes and others that I realized that I was probably within about a mile of the giant tornado. This page will focus on the tornadoes that impacted northeastern Ohio, far southwestern New York, and Pennsylvania. I was much more interested in baseball than weather then, though we recently completed a weather unit in school in which tornadoes were among the topics. Indeed explosive development of storms started over northeast Ohio (not far from where I grew up) in the late afternoon. Thirty-five years later, despite remarkable advances in radar and other technologies, tornadoes and their inner lives remain enigmas to … I then rode in the PSP helicopter with him as we toured the areas near Dempseytown in Venango County that were hard hit by a tornado. Still, the weather pattern appeared prime for severe storms to break out in Ohio/Western Pennsylvania later in the day. By the end of the evening, a total of forty-one tornadoes had occurred in the United States and Canada. The following diagrams, called soundings, show the amount of instability in the atmosphere that afternoon. My Senior year in High School, when it came time to apply to colleges, I only applied to ones that offered Meteorology. On the evening of May 31st, 1985, a devastating and deadly tornado outbreak struck the Northeastern United States and Canada. F-scale: F2 PORTIONS OF EASTERN OHIO He landed in a PSP helicopter and we talked about the relief efforts underway. 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