Tornadoes in Pennsylvania

Though many feel that the possibility of a tornado to occur in Pennsylvania is almost nonexistent, nothing could be further from the truth.  Depending on where you are in the State of PA you could be in the tornado alley of Pennsylvania.  The primary locations in which tornadoes occur tend to be in North Western, South Western, and South Eastern regions of our state.  Counties such as Crawford, Westmoreland, and Lancaster have all experienced in excess of thirty tornadoes since 1881.


Back on May 31st 1985, the state of Pennsylvania was the epicenter of a severe tornado outbreak, the deadliest in our state’s history.  In total, 43 tornadoes touched down including eight F4 tornadoes, one of which went through the state forest to our north, and a F5 tornado in the Sharon PA area, that decimated the town of Wheatland PA.

VIS_SAT_1985_MAY_31_smvisible satellite imagery from NOAA

As you can see from the satellite loop, the storms really develop towards the end of the loop, which was the late afternoon on May 31st.  The timing was one of the key factors in the number of people killed, because the morning was beautiful so many people went outside to enjoy the day, with tornadoes being the last thing on their mind.  In the end 88 people lost there lives.

Of the 41 tornadoes that occurred on that day, two were very powerful long tract tornadoes that ripped across Mercer and Venango counties.  The first was and F4 tornado that devastated Atlantic PA

AtlanticTornado1Atlantic PA tornado NOAA

Worst of them all occurred in Mercer county and destroyed the town of Wheatland PA.  At approximately 6:30pm the F5 tornado touched down outside of Niles OH, and continued across the PA/OH border in to the Sharon area.  Leaving 18 people dead and over 300 injured.

107_Village_PlazaF5 in Niles OH

In the end, May 31st 1985 will always stand out, as one of the deadliest days in weather history for the State of Pennsylvania, and even though I enjoy this kind of weather, we will most likely never see such a day again, on this day everything was perfect for the development of this outbreak, and it would be rare to see this happen again.

641px-May31CLEtracksTornado paths during the Outbreak.

Have a great summer and always be aware of your surroundings, and stay one step a head of what ever weather you might experience.





1 thought on “Tornadoes in Pennsylvania

  1. Eric Hill

    I always thought that tornado’s were the most unlikely natural disaster to happen in PA do to the excess amount of hills and the Appalachian mountains. I would never even think that a phenomenon of an outbreak of tornado’s would ever have happened. I guess I should start taking tornado warnings more seriously now when I see them on the news.

Leave a Reply