Tornadoes in West Virginia

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Since 1950, 146 tornado reports have been received in West Virginia according to The Tornado Project. That’s an average of about 2.2 tornadoes per year. Of those 146 tornado reports from 1950-2017, only 11 of those reports were received from our area.

Thankfully, our area has not received any severe tornadoes since recording began in 1950. Of the eleven tornadoes that have occurred in our area, 7 of them were EF-0 tornadoes, with winds less than 85 mph. The remaining four tornadoes were EF-1 tornadoes, with winds estimated between 86 mph and 110 mph.

Berkeley County has received the highest number of tornadoes in our state since 1950.

Since 1950, only eleven counties in West Virginia have received more than five tornadoes. Berkeley County in the eastern panhandle has received the most tornadoes in West Virginia, with eleven tornadoes received. Preston County and Wood County came in next, with nine tornadoes. Kanawha County (8) and Raleigh County (7) round out the top 5. Interestingly, elevation doesn’t appear to make much difference in tornado production in the Mountain State, contrary to popular belief. Greenbrier, Preston, and Randolph counties all are mountainous counties, yet are in the top 15 counties for most tornadoes in West Virginia since 1950.

The deadliest tornado to ever strike the Mountain State is the Shinnston Tornado. According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, the tornado struck the town of Shinnston at around 8:30 p.m. That tornado passed through Marion County first, followed by Taylor, Barbour, and finally Randolph County, where it dissipated. The tornado received an EF-4 rating, with winds greater than 200 mph. According to the Encyclopedia, 100 people were killed, with over 400 injured. The storm is the 15th deadliest tornado in U.S. History, and ironically occurred on June 23rd, 1944. Ironically, the historic 2016 floods also occurred on June 23rd.

More details on the Shinnston Tornado are available at the WV Encyclopedia, as well as the WV Culture Center.

Part of the destruction caused by the Shinnston Tornado (Photo courtesy of  the WV State Police).

The following is a list of the deadliest tornadoes in US history according to the Storm Prediction Center:

 

DATE

 

LOCATION(S)

 

DEATHS

1

18 Mar 1925

Tri-State (MO/IL/IN)

695

2

06 May 1840

Natchez MS

317

3

27 May 1896

St. Louis MO

255

4

05 Apr 1936

Tupelo MS

216

5

06 Apr 1936

Gainesville GA

203

6

09 Apr 1947

Woodward OK

181

7

22 May 2011

Joplin MO

158

8

24 Apr 1908

Amite LA, Purvis MS

143

9

12 Jun 1899

New Richmond WI

117

10

8 Jun 1953

Flint MI

116

11

11 May 1953

Waco TX

114

11

18 May 1902

Goliad TX

114

13

23 Mar 1913

Omaha NE

103

14

26 May 1917

Mattoon IL

101

15

23 Jun 1944

Shinnston WV

100