Although tornadoes are rare in West Virginia, they can occur with little or no warning. These violent episodes can quickly destroy buildings, trees and lives.
Tornadoes are formed when thunderstorms produce a funnel cloud. Depending on their intensity, size, path, time of day, and amount of time they are on the ground, tornadoes can damage homes, businesses, farms and pastures.
As a result of its rugged, remote topography, West Virginia is home to an average of two tornadoes per year. Most of those are weak and brief.
The worst dangers from thunderstorms in West Virginia are flash flooding and mudslides. Both of these hazards can occur anywhere in the state, including on steep slopes and along mountaintops and ridges.
Last May, a severe storm in Moore destroyed the house that Mark and Katrina Ellerd had lived in for 23 years. They buried their memories in the ruins, but they never lost their sense of family or their love for WVU.
West Virginia has been hit with a number of tornadoes. Some have been quite severe.
One of the most powerful and destructive tornadoes in history was the Shinnston F4 Tornado of June 23, 1944. It was a part of an historic outbreak that impacted portions of the Appalachian Mountains.
The tornado killed 103 people in the state of West Virginia and is the only tornado to produce F4 damage in the state.
This storm produced a long-lived F4 tornado that was on the ground for about 48 miles before it dissipated. It began in Allegany County, crossed Finzel, moved into Garrett County, then rose up over Big Savage Mountain and ended up crossing Frostburg, Maryland.
This tornado caused extensive damage to a farmhouse, several farm buildings, and farm equipment. It also ripped up some power lines. It was spotted on camera by the 911 center in Cumberland for about 20 minutes before it dissipated.
Tornadoes are most common in West Virginia between March and May, but tornadoes can occur at any time. During these months, a tornado watch means that there is a risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, while a tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
F3 tornadoes are the strongest on the Enhanced Fujita Scale and typically have winds between 136 and 165 mph. These tornadoes can cause significant damage, with many homes and buildings being completely destroyed.
A powerful F3 tornado that ripped through Somerset County on June 3 created a 33-mile path of destruction, starting in Fayette County and passing across southern Somerset County into Maryland before moving into Garrett County.
An F3 tornado developed about 6 miles west of Barnard and moved northeastward. It caused extensive damage to several farmhouses, farm buildings, and equipment. It also threw a pickup truck 100 yards into a group of trees, totaling it.
A tornado touched down near Lubeck, WV and moved northeast. The roof of one house was thrown several hundred feet into a neighboring home, a barn was blown to pieces and a mobile home was destroyed.
A second tornado crossed into Somerset County, PA. Several homes were leveled as it passed over Patterson Creek Mountain and into Hampshire Co.
The tornado tracked three miles south of Junction and dissipated in the area. The National Weather Service had surveyed the area and determined that the tornado was an EF2 with winds of 110-120 mph.
A strong F2 tornado struck the Dallas community Monday night, destroying a couple of houses, a barn and a camper in the process. The NWS spent much of Tuesday reviewing pictures and videos provided by eyewitnesses.