1985-05-31 OH/PA/NY Outbreak

Jun 14, 2010
50
0
5
44
Chautauqua Co., NY
I was wondering if anyone had any stories concerning this outbreak. I was 10 years old at the time, living in North East, PA. I remember Joey Stevens from WJET-24 screaming for people to get into their basements on tv. We did see one funnel cloud go over our house, and watched another one go along the lakeshore. It was definately a scary time for a 10 year old!
 

Bill Hark

EF5
Jan 13, 2004
1,261
178
11
52
Richmond Virginia
www.harkphoto.com
I was not there for the outbreak but researched it when looking for video for my Eastern Fury collection. I found this nice website with maps, photos and great links concerning the outbreak:

http://may311985tornadoes.com/

Self-Serving plug: I did contact one of the tornado videographers and managed to license his wild video of the Hermitage, PA tornado for my collection of eastern tornado video. I am selling the DVD. There is a small still image and a couple of brief clips on the video promo:

http://www.harkphoto.com/EasternFury.html

Bill Hark
 

MatthewCarman

If you have the big green book (Significant tornadoes) it has this event listed as the worst tornado outbreak in recorded history for the area it affected which was mostly in north west and central Pennsylvania. Seven F4 tornadoes and one F5 tornado occurred with this outbreak in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ten of the tornadoes from the outbreak were killer tornadoes. The F5 tornado was on the ground for 47 miles and went from Ohio to Pennsylvania. A F4 tornado was on the ground for 69 miles in central Pennsylvania and another F4 tornado was on the ground for 56 miles in north west Pennsylvania. There was two more F4 tornadoes in Canada. This is an interesting event.
 
Apr 10, 2008
460
121
11
Tulsa, OK
www.facebook.com
There is a book out there called "Tornado Watch 211" by John G. Fuller. I haven't read this book since highschool. This book is about the tornado outbreak and has some incredible stories in it. I am sure you can find it on Amazon.
 
Jun 14, 2010
50
0
5
44
Chautauqua Co., NY
If you have the big green book (Significant tornadoes) it has this event listed as the worst tornado outbreak in recorded history for the area it affected which was mostly in north west and central Pennsylvania. Seven F4 tornadoes and one F5 tornado occurred with this outbreak in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ten of the tornadoes from the outbreak were killer tornadoes. The F5 tornado was on the ground for 47 miles and went from Ohio to Pennsylvania. A F4 tornado was on the ground for 69 miles in central Pennsylvania and another F4 tornado was on the ground for 56 miles in north west Pennsylvania. There was two more F4 tornadoes in Canada. This is an interesting event.
I have the big green book. I was lucky enough to catch it for $20 buy it now on ebay about 10 years ago. It was in deplorable condition, so it is now three ring bound in an old Admiral radio repair binder, but hey... it works. I also have the update. I find it fascinating stuff.
 
Jun 14, 2010
50
0
5
44
Chautauqua Co., NY
There is a book out there called "Tornado Watch 211" by John G. Fuller. I haven't read this book since highschool. This book is about the tornado outbreak and has some incredible stories in it. I am sure you can find it on Amazon.
Yeah I actually own one (and I think actually two) copies of this book. It's a real good read that I would recommend.
 
Mar 8, 2009
68
13
6
Meadville PA
Welll if you are a REAL May 31st 1985 Outbreak affectionado:D...you would want a copy of the only surviving 911 fire dispatch tapes from that day...and I happen to be selling cd copies of it. :eek:
 
Mar 8, 2009
68
13
6
Meadville PA
I was living here in the middle of ground zero that day...ended up getting dispatched to Atlantic Pa., a small amish community that was just about wiped out.

In a weird side note, my wife, who was raised in Kansas, looked at the sky fully three hours before the first mention of a torn watch ever hit the air, and took the kids to the basement. I now trust her tornado instinct!
 

PlumJ

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
 

cdcollura

EF5
Jun 12, 2004
1,394
149
11
50
Sunrise, Florida
www.sky-chaser.com
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!

http://www.sky-chaser.com/sctsosnd.htm
 

Fred Mullens

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.
 

rpossert

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.
 
May 21, 2011
42
0
0
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.
 
Mar 28, 2009
97
8
6
56
Hagerstown MD
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...

-T
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mar 28, 2009
97
8
6
56
Hagerstown MD
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

-Truman