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Thread: 1985-05-31 OH/PA/NY Outbreak

  1. #11


    I think this day was a moderate risk or something like that and then downgraded to slight with low probs a few hours before the tornadoes, then a high risk was issued or something, somebody from the NWS told me that this was a high risk day for NY,OH,PA and also an interesting note is that there were some storm chasers actually on some of these tornadoes, near Saxonburg PA there was up to 5 chasers at one time taking photos and possibly some old vhs footage the large multiple vortex tornado that hit near that town, Interesting because it was 1985 and people don't chase often in Western PA

  2. #12
    Member cdcollura's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Sunrise, Florida


    Good day all...

    Wow as I was not chasing as I was only 15 at the time, but living in NY I witnessed the squall line blast through the area (Suffolk county on Long Island) after midnight. I stayed up for it, and the young storm-chaser spirit was alive in me. Severe conditions arrived (60+ MPH, small hail, and some of the most impressive lightning I ever experienced at that time).

    I recorded the audio, dug it up, and posted it at the link below. Enjoy!
    Christopher Collura - KG4PJN
    Sky-Chaser Storm Journalism
    Quote: "If it has a core, I'll punch it!"

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Cincinnati, Ohio


    NWS CLE has a nice page about the event

    The Storm Data & other info page has some warnings and the storm data publication for that month.

  4. #14


    I remember the 'beehive'. That's what I called the Niles supercell at the time I glimpsed it.

    Was working at an area business and left work to head to a friend's house not too far from my current residence (near Akron, OH). One of the streets on the way tops a small ridge and there's a clearing to the east.

    The back side of the cell I was spotted was probably 60 miles to my east at the time yet the storm filled a goodly portion of the sky. What struck me was the amount of rotation present - ergo, the 'beehive' description. (I lived through the '74 outbreak but did not get a good look at any of the associated cells which passed through the area.)

    Those two events cemented my interest in meteorology and severe weather.

    A co-worker who also drove semi trucks stated that the affected areas in eastern Ohio looked as if someone ran a quarter-mile-wide mower right down the center of the forests.

  5. #15


    Hey all...I was 9 years old and living in Hubbard, OH at the time. The F5 (Niles, Wheatland) rolled through the north side of our town that day. I remember it like it was yesterday. As the technology has improved over the years, I have been become more and more fascinated by this storm and in turn all severe weather, especially tornadoes. I watched the tornado make it's way through Chestnut Ridge Rd and over US-62 into the Sharon/Hermitage, PA area on it's way to Wheatland before I lost sight of it. It wasn't very wide, comparatively, but I remember the amount and size of debris it was carrying/throwing being the craziest feature.

    I've edited and added to the Wikipedia article on this outbreak: 1985 United States Canadian tornado outbreak with different sources around the web. Would love to hear any other stories anyone else has on this storm.

  6. #16


    A decade before I went back to graduate school, I lived in Harrisburg, PA, and I watched the public station that broadcasted a 4 o'clock weather briefing that originated out of Penn State / State College. Paul Knight, who later became the State Climatologist, did the on-air forecast. He said that a tornado watch had been issued, but he didn't think much would come of it. Obviously, he was banking on the cap holding and a continuation of clear skies in eastern Ohio and western PA. Little more than an hour later, all hell broke loose. With all due respect, and as a scientists myself, I can say that the boom & bust nature of severe storms resulted in what I believe to this day was the most wrong forecast I have ever seen. Sorry Paul. Almost two dozen storms, some strong and violent, killed scores of people in PA. Once we think we know what mother nature will do, she throws a curve.

  7. #17


    Morning of May 3 1999 most of us did not think that much would come of the Moderate Risk.

    The 85 outbreak was similar in many ways. There was clear air most of the day, even though it was Hot and Humid.
    Very unusual for eastern systems, where it is always hazy. Around here, we seldom see any real storm structure because of the Haze.
    Most times the sky just gets dark, and then the thunder and rain comes.

    I remember this event mostly because I was just starting to learn about weather, and it was one of the very first times I could see an entire anvil down to the base. I told my girlfriend that a storm was coming, she did not believe me because "the sky isn't dark enough". We were under blue sky at that time.

    I made a believer out of her. Less than 10 minutes later, nickel-size hail made us run for cover.
    I remember I held a cup out in the open to collect hail, and then I got a Coke and poured over it.

    It wasn't until later I heard about the tornadoes north of where we were. And a few days later I saw the miles-long caravans of Amish in horses and buggies taking food and supplies north to help out. (Amish storm chasers ??)

    The fact that the skies were clear for most of the day contributed to people, including forecasters, disregarding the watch.
    This made it all that much worse when the radar, in about 25 minutes, went from clear sky to dozens of supercells scattered over hundred of miles.

    Like... BOOM !!

    On one of the few VHS videos that survives, you can hear 2 people talking, it went something like...
    "is that a tornado ??"
    "Yeah, ...I think so, but we don't get them here"
    (I was about a half mile wedge, and they could only see the back edge of it surrounded by blue sky)
    "look at all that paper flying around"
    "yeah, what a mess"

    Later, analysis showed that the "paper" was sections of roofs and walls, and roof tin from barns, etc.
    It was an F5, and they were so casual, because "we never get tornadoes around here" and they never
    heard a warning. We don't have tornado sirens around here, and if we did they'd just think it was a fire alarm...

    Last edited by TrumanBoyer; 04-25-2012 at 02:40 PM.

  8. #18

    Default Almost Forgot !

    I almost forgot.

    John Fuller wrote a best seller about this outbreak.
    I think a lot of it was overdramatized, but it is still a great read.
    One of the best tornado books written before 1990.

    It is enlightening to look back at the "state of the art" in 1985.
    Like Cray X-MP supercomputers with 400 MFLOPS and 16 Megabytes of RAM, etc.

    Tornado Watch #211
    by John Grant Fuller

    ISBN-10: 0688065902
    ISBN-13: 978-0688065904


  9. #19
    Member Roy Britt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010


    With the 27th anniversary of this outbrake today i made a video from material i collected back in 1985 and added it to YouTube.

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