Rare Out-of-Season Tornadoes Touch Down in Ohio & Pennsylvania (Credit: Aaron Cline, NWS Cleveland, NWS Pittsburgh)
Two separate EF-1 tornadoes touched down on the morning of January 8th 2019, one in northeast Ohio and one in northwest Pennsylvania. A rare event indeed for the month of January for both states.
When we talk about the position of the jet stream, it is typically located much further south during the month of January. This allows severe weather to occur across the deep south while winter takes its course farther up north. For these rare tornadoes to occur, not only was the jet stream positioned way farther north, but there was a much warmer air mass already in place. Many areas across the Midwest and Ohio Valley saw temperatures Tuesday morning 20 above average.
The position of the jet stream allowed a broad and weak area of low pressure to move into the Great Lakes region early Tuesday morning. This low pressure provided the right amount of moisture and instability for a few severe thunderstorms to form across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Cleveland, OH, a tornado formed around 10:30 AM to the west of the city of Cortland, OH. This tornado had a path length of 4.5 miles long and was about 75 yards wide. A survey team from the NWS found EF-1 damage (86 to 100 miles per hour) to an outbuilding in a cemetery west of Mosquito Lake, and numerous trees and wires were downed in surrounding locations.
Dating back to 1950, there have only been 6 tornadoes that occurred during the month of January in the state of Ohio. According to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), the Buckeye State averages between 15 to 16 tornadoes a year with a majority of them occurring during May though June. Below is a picture of the tornado taken by Aaron Chine followed by the survey results by the NWS in Cleveland.
Just down the road, the same thunderstorm spawned another tornado nearly an hour later just north of New Lebanon in northwest Pennsylvania. This tornado was on the ground for approximately 2.8 miles and was about 4 football fields wide. Most of the damage from this tornado was to hardwood trees that were either uprooted from the ground or snapped at the trunk. The only structural damage this tornado caused was when a tree fell directly on a mobile home damaging only the roof.
This is only the 7th tornado since 1950 to touch down in Pennsylvania during the month of January. It is also the 24th tornado recorded in Mercer county since 1886. Below are the survey results of the Mercer County tornado from the NWS in Pittsburgh.
The Keystone State is coming off a big tornado year. In 2018, there were confirmed 31 tornadoes in PA when the state typically averages only 16 per year. Just to compare, Oklahoma which lies in the "heart" of tornado alley only had 24 tornadoes in 2018.
Fortunately with both tornadoes, there were no injuries or fatalities.
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©2018 Meteorologist Joseph Marino