Severe Weather Awareness Week: Local tornado history and debunking tornado myths

NOTE: Ohio will conduct a statewide tornado drill on Wednesday, March 20 at 9:50 AM. Weather radios will alert and communities across the state will activate (test) outdoor tornado sirens. The WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) system will be tested as well.

There were a total of 18 tornadoes that struck Ohio last year. That’s just below the average number the state usually receives – 19. Compare that to 2017 when Ohio had 39 tornadoes.

Tuscarawas County has had 14 tornado touchdowns since 1950. All tornadoes locally have been categorized as EF-2 or weaker. The last tornado to cause significant damage was the 2013 EF-1 tornado that went through Mineral City. That’s still pretty fresh in the minds of most locals.

Tornadoes have been recorded in every month of the year in Ohio – yes, even in the dead of winter. But our peak tornado season runs April through July.


Tornadoes are like magic to most of us. A lot of folks have some pretty wild ideas about them. Most of what they believe is based on old information or maybe even folklore. Many stories and myths surround tornadoes and some of them almost make sense.

Here are some of the most common myths surrounding tornadoes along with the facts:

I would like to add one more common myth – the myth that radar ALWAYS picks up tornado signatures and we will ALWAYS get a warning. The truth is we’re pretty far out from the radar beams emitted from both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland NWS radars. Since radar signals travel in straight lines, the radar beans tend to overshoot our area when they pass over.

That’s why we need storm spotters. Storm spotters can fill in this radar gap. If you would like to become a spotter for NWS, see my note at the end of this article.


Paying attention, staying informed and planning ahead will lower the chance of injury or death in the event that severe weather, such as a tornado, strikes.

  1. Pay attention to the weather and to weather reports. Meteorologists can predict or forecast when conditions might be right for a tornado to develop a couple of days in advance. Don’t end up injured or dead because you were too busy to pay attention.
  2. Ensure that everyone knows the signs of a tornado, including a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris, or a loud roar – similar to a freight train. The key word is rotating. Not every low-hanging cloud is a tornado.
  3. Have a plan. Make sure every family member knows where your safe space is and how to get there quickly. Here in the Valley, most homes have basements and this will be your safest place during a tornado.
  4. Mobile homes, vehicles, and underpasses are NOT SAFE places. If you live in a mobile home, know where you can have sturdy shelter AHEAD of time and how you’re going to get there quickly.
  5. Know the difference between a Tornado WATCH and a Tornado WARNING. A WATCH means that tornadoes are possible. A WARNING means a tornado is happening.


The Pittsburgh NWS office offers a couple of opportunities for FREE spotter training locally. The first is an online course that is scheduled for March 30. You can participate in this from your own home.

The second class will be conducted on April 9 at 6:30 PM at Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia.

Both classes require pre-registration. You can register online HERE. There is no fee for either session.




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