Photo Credit: Ryan Hanrahan, NWS Pittsburgh
On February 15th, at around 6:40 PM EST, a severe thunderstorm went through the city of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. This storm was severe warned by the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, PA for being able to produce winds up to 60 mph and “perhaps” a brief tornado. This region of western Pennsylvania has never recorded a tornado during the month of February since records began in 1950.
Once the storms had moved out, there were multiple reports and images from Uniontown surfacing on social media of storm damage. Most people were speculating that the damage had been done by a possible tornado. The first image above shows the radar image and velocity scan of the thunderstorm as it was moving through Uniontown. Velocity scans are a very important tool for meteorologists as it helps depict where the rotation is in a thunderstorm.
In response, the NWS office in Pittsburgh sent a survey team down to Uniontown to investigate the damage. The results from the survey were quite historical. The damage in the city was in fact from a tornado that started near the intersection of Phillipi Avenue and Pittsburgh Street. The tornado then traveled approximately two miles before lifting near Kennedy Street in the Woodview Terrace area. On average, most tornadoes are on the ground for less than 10 minutes. This tornado did a good amount of damage in just about 3 minutes. The extent of the damage was equivalent to an EF-1 tornado. This means that the tornado had wind speeds between 86-110 mph.
As far as the damage goes, there were numerous power lines down and multiple structures were damaged throughout the city. These structures mainly suffered partial to entire roof damage. Through the path of the storm, many hardwood and pine trees around the area were either snapped or uprooted. The good news however, is that there were no injuries and fatalities from this tornado. The second image above shows a preliminary summary of the damage survey done in Uniontown.
Why was this tornado so historical? Although tornadoes do occur every month of the year in the United States, this was a first for the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. This tornado snapped the record by being the first tornado recorded in the month of February by the Pittsburgh office since 1950. This is also the 11th tornado to form in Fayette county since 1950 with this one being the 3rd EF-1 tornado. And lastly, this makes it the third year in a row that Pennsylvania has recorded a tornado during the month of February. There was the Lancaster and Bradford tornadoes in 2016, the York, Luzerne, and Lackawanna tornadoes in 2017, and now the Uniontown tornado in 2018.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Joey Marino