I am going to write a blog post about tornadoes, because severe weather is a deep passion of mine, because I am a SkyWarn spotter and because I have always been fascinated with tornadoes.
The problem with tornadoes is that you do not know that the tornado is going to be an EF-0 or an EF-5 twister. The only real way to find out is by the damage that it causes. If only there was a way to know that an EF-1 or an EF-5 was going to hit you and when and where. Not all severe thunderstorms spawn tornadoes, but you have no idea if the twister that is gonna hit you is an EF-0 or an EF-5 tornado, until it ACTUALLY hits you. I would like to know beforehand if I an EF-0 or an EF-5 is gonna spawn BEFORE it hits me, but science hasn’t really caught up to that yet. We SkyWarn spotters are the first line of defense when a tornado hits or is about to touch down. Not all funnel clouds touch down. There have been cases of major outbreaks of more than 10 tornadoes in a single storm or multiple storms patterned together, like what happened in 1985 and 2011.
In 1985, Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania were hit by an outbreak of tornadoes, as many of you who live in my area already know. I live in Cochranton, Pennsylvania. Crawford, Erie, and Mercer counties in PA were hit and I forget the names of the Ohio counties that were hit by this outbreak.
Tornadoes are really unpredictable. You can predict that a hurricane is gonna be a Category 5 before it hit land, but you cannot predict an EF-5 tornado BEFORE it hits or even know if it gonna be an EF-5 tornado. With tornadoes, they strike anywhere and everywhere. They are most often found in the midwest and sometimes in Western Pennsylvania. Western PA rarely gets hit with tornadoes, unlike in the Midwest of America, but they have happened, like in ’85.
I was born in 1989, so I remember reading about the 1985 outbreak and hearing about how one of my staff was hit by one of the tornadoes in the outbreak that happened that year.
You have no idea if you are gonna be hit by an EF-0 or an EF-5, so it is best to take shelter in the lowest part of your house when a tornado warning has been issued for your area. In America, we are still trying to understand tornadoes. We only know so much about them, unfortunately. Science cannot predict that you are gonna be hit by an EF-5, until it has caused some serious damage. Science still hasn’t been able to predict if the tornado that is gonna hit is gonna be an EF-5 or an EF-0, like they’ve been able to do with hurricanes. We can predict where tornadoes are gonna hit, but you still do not know if the tornado is gonna be an EF-5 until it touches down and does some damage. I see tornadoes in film and on TV, but never one in real life. The problem is that movies like Twister and Into the Storm only show EF-5 tornadoes, because they cause the most damage and are the most dramatic. There was that one tornado that hit Pittsburgh back in 1998. It was not an EF-5, but it still did some damage. I remember hearing about the Cranesville/Albion tornado of 1985 that Kristy was in. I saw a funnel cloud form once, over by Mercer Pike in Cochranton over by my house. It never touched down, though. I remember that the SkyWarn net was activated by KC3DRZ and I reported to NWS Cleveland that some hail had hit my house. I am a Skywarn spotter attached to NWS Cleveland in Northwest PA and NWS Cleveland is responsible for my entire area.
I never saw a tornado in real life, I did hear about a tornado warning for southeast Erie County and Northeast Crawford County. Apparently, someone panicked and said that there was a tornado on the ground, when in fact there wasn’t. At least that’s what Jamie Tolbert, WW3S told everyone at the June 21st club meeting in Meadville. The Crawford Amateur Radio Society (CARS) holds their meetings on the third Tuesday of every month at St. Brigid’s Church in Meadville. I remember the club meeting, Jim, K3TLP, is always there and so is Richard, WA3MCH. Anyway, ham radio is vital in the event of a tornado or any disaster. You can listen to NOAA weather radio on 162.475 for Meadville and sometimes, I can pick up KEC58 out of Erie on 162.400.
I can sometimes pick up Cleveland on 162.550. All are served by NWS Cleveland. Ham radio operators that are also storm spotters, can provide eyes onto a twister, but unlike the movie Twister, we are normally not supposed to chase them, unless we have a death wish or are really suicidal. We just spot for them and call NWS Cleveland reporting a tornado, IF it touches down. That’s all we can do, really. Jamie, WW3S told about some ham operators that became silent keys because they decided to chase after a tornado. Problem is, you just do not know where a tornado is gonna strike. NEVER chase after a twister, unless you are trained storm chaser, like Erik Rasmussen for example. He’s experienced in chasing them and so is Warren Faidley and they KNOW what they are doing. I do not want to risk death or my life in chasing after a tornado. I would rather keep my distance. But what if one is gonna hit my house? Then, I would take shelter in my basement or in the bathtub.
I never want to and I pray to God that I never see a tornado. For awhile there, all I had to worry about was my basement flooding. That’s been solved. Now, I worry about whether a tornado is gonna hit or if my antenna for my ICOM IC 706 MK. II G is gonna get hit by a lightning strike. That’s a big worry of mine. I have two antennas, one for HF and one for VHF/UHF (2 meters and 70 centimeters, a.k.a. 440). One is a random wire that goes from 160-6 meters. Tornadoes do happen and you should take shelter from them when they hit. I do not see tornadoes very often and thank God that I do not. Tornadoes also happen in the Southern United States. I almost saw a tornado once in Newberry South Carolina back in 2011. I was there seeing my aunt Judy and my uncle, the Reverend David L. Clark. I was in a hotel room when I looked outside and saw that the sky was all strange looking. The tornado never hit us. I remember Newberry, South Carolina all too well. I also know that later on that year in 2011, that there was a huge tornado outbreak that year.
I remember that I was still living with my mom and dad in 2011. I was 22 at the time. I remember the 2011 tornado outbreak that covered a huge swath of the United States. I lived in Corry at the time. I remember hail hitting my house in Corry. I can remember when a tornado hit Union City, Pennsylvania. It was a weak tornado, but it still did some damage. That was in 2013. I remember when I was a kid and how I was fascinated with tornadoes. I still am. I remember how I was living in Cochranton when there was a tornado that hit Crawford County in 2014. It too did little damage.
SkyWarn is still a useful tool when spotting tornadoes and eyes on the storm always help to see things that the radar that you see on the Weather Channel or Weather Underground don’t see. I am spotter number 039-489 and I am in SKYWARN. I remember how tornadoes are carefully documented, but we still do not know if area X or if area Y is gonna get hit by an EF-5 or an EF-0 or if the forming tornado is gonna be an EF-5 or not. Not all funnel clouds touch down. When a tornado hits you, it sounds like a freight train and is really loud. You cannot hear anything at all, except the tornado itself, and it’s really deafening. Everything goes flying around in the air and you do not know if a semi truck or if a fallen tree is gonna crash through your house. It’s really scary. Most tornado deaths are caused by people who were hit by the debris from the tornado. A piece of debris flying at over 300 MPH can really put a hole through your house. A tornado can rip a whole house apart. Debris can be scattered for hundreds of miles. Tornadoes are really scary phenomena. You can be killed by the debris from a tornado. It is lethal stuff. Oklahoma City was hit by a tornado in 1999 that was an EF-5. The Niles-Wheatland tornado was an EF-5 and to date, the only EF-5 twister to hit Pennsylvania. Supercells are lethal storms. I was not born until 1989 when the EF-4 hit Albion in 1985. Wikipedia says that it was an EF-4, but I am skeptical, as you very well know, of Wikipedia.
I am a Skywarn spotter that is trained to look at certain cloud formations, like wall clouds and to watch for rotation in the cloud, to see if it will touch down or not. You just don’t know until you’ve seen it for yourself.
I have not seen a tornado YET. It will happen someday when a tornado will again hit Western Pennsylvania. Severe weather happens every spring and summer in Western PA. I usually do not eastern PA get hit with a tornado, but I am sure that they have happened there. I know that Western PA gets hit by tornadoes, more than anywhere else in the entire state of Pennsylvania, at least Crawford County does.
We are very close to the Midwestern state of Ohio. In fact, Ohio is only 45 minutes away from where I live. I live an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh in Cochranton, PA. Ohio is well-known for getting hit by tornadoes and so is Illinois and Indiana. Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri get them alot, too. Ohio is part of the Midwest and southern and southwest Ohio get hit by tornadoes alot, too. Like the 1974 outbreak or the 1965 Palm Sunday Outbreak. I remember all that, too. I remember reading about it and seeing it on TV. Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York mostly have to worry about heavy snow. The snow is not very heavy in Pittsburgh and the surrounding metro area, like Butler County or Westmoreland County. I did experience heavy snow and below zero temperatures about 2 years ago. Changing weather patterns, like a mild winter can sometimes have tornadoes. In the South, they are common during the springtime. Twisters happen in the fall, too, not just in the spring or summer. Remember to ALWAYS watch the weather and for changing temperatures and high humidity and falling barometric pressure and for certain cloud formations, like wall clouds and always look to see if one is rotating and be on the alert if it is.
Remember that if you are spotting for tornadoes, to always keep your distance from the tornado. If you can’t, get out of your vehicle and get into a ditch.
Justin the SkyWarn spotter.