Two Tornadoes and a Microphone (and a Waterspout)

Covering Friday's Storms

It’s time for a little math…

80 minutes of live coverage

+3 tornado warnings

+2 confirmed tornadoes

+1 waterspout

_________________________

= 1 crazy night at work!

That was the setup for May 27, 2011.  I got in to work at around 2 PM that day and started working on my forecast.  The day looked like it had the potential to bring some severe weather and we were already under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch.

Around 3:30 or so, we popped our first Severe Thunderstorm Warning for a portion of Bedford and Somerset Counties.  With that, I broke in during some promo time we had allotted for the station.  I broke in three times.  Once was a minute and the other two were 30 seconds each.

Then it came to news time.

The first half hour was quiet with just a few Severe Thunderstorm Warnings.  That’s not that big of a deal.  Then, just before my tease in the second block of news at 5:30, I saw the Tornado Warning pop up on my screen.  We were going to break so we went quickly to get our bearings then got right back into coverage and stayed with it with only one or two 90-second breaks through 7 PM, or the time they passed out of our area.

We ended up with three separate Tornado Warnings for our area between around 5:30 or so and 7 PM.  The counties included Bedford, Fulton, and Huntingdon.

It turns out that the storms did actually spawn tornadoes and even a waterspout on Lake Raystown.

Here’s some information on these tornadoes from the NWS, who went out Saturday and surveyed the damage.

Tornado #1:

A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SURVEY TEAM CONFIRMED A TORNADO NEAR
CALVIN IN HUNTINGDON COUNTY FROM A STORM ON FRIDAY EVENING...MAY 27.
THE TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN ONE MILE SOUTH OF CALVIN AROUND 530 PM EDT...
AND TRACKED NNE APPROXIMATELY 2 MILES BEFORE LIFTING ONE MILE
NORTH OF CALVIN. THE TORNADO DAMAGE PATH RAN PARALLEL TO STATE
ROUTE 829...AND CONSISTED MOSTLY OF TREE DAMAGE. 50 TREES WERE
EITHER SNAPPED OR UPROOTED...AND THERE WAS MINOR DAMAGE TO THE DECK
OF ONE HOUSE. LINK

Tornado #2:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STATE COLLEGE PA HAS CONFIRMED A
TORNADO NEAR TROUGH CREEK IN HUNTINGDON COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA ON
5/27/11.

A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SURVEY TEAM CONFIRMED A TORNADO FROM
THE STORMS OF MAY 27 ALONG LITTLE VALLEY ROAD NEAR THE TROUGH
CREEK WILD AREA OF HUNTINGDON COUNTY. THE TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN 1
MILE NORTH OF MIDDLETOWN JUST WEST OF LITTLE VALLEY ROAD... AND
TRACKED EAST NORTHEAST FOR ABOUT 3 MILES TO A FINAL LOCATION
AROUND 4 MILES NORTH NORTHEAST OF MIDDLETOWN...ALSO TO THE WEST OF
LITTLE VALLEY ROAD.

DAMAGE WAS LIMITED MAINLY TO TREES...WHILE A FEW CABINS SUSTAINED
MINOR DAMAGE TO DECKS DUE TO FALLEN TREES. MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WINDS
OF 95 TO 100 MPH RATE THIS AN EF1 TORNADO ON THE ENHANCED FUJITA
SCALE. LINK

Waterspout:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STATE COLLEGE HAS CONFIRMED THAT A
WATERSPOUT OCCURRED ON RAYSTOWN LAKE AROUND 530 PM FRIDAY MAY 27TH.
WITNESSES SAY THE WATERSPOUT FORMED ON THE LAKE NEAR SEVEN POINTS
MARINA. THE WATERSPOUT DISSIPATED IMMEDIATELY AS IT CAME
ONSHORE...KNOCKING DOWN ONE TREE ONTO A CAMPER VEHICLE. THERE WERE
NO INJURIES. LINK

The scale for tornadoes goes from EF-0 to EF-5.  Both of these tornadoes were EF-1 on the scale.  That means the winds were between 86 and 110 miles per hour.  Waterspouts do not have a ratings system.

So what did you think of the coverage?  We did have some people call and say they were upset that we didn’t have much of the news of the day other than the first 30 minutes of our 90-minute newscast.  To this, I say I’m sorry but ultimately, too bad.  The tornadoes were in Huntingdon County and the warnings also included Bedford and Fulton counties.  I understand that this is only a small section of our viewing area, but they rely on us to get information.  We would provide the same level of coverage whether the tornado was moving through Elk County, Cambria County, or Centre County.  While we hope to never have to do it again, if it’s in our DMA (designated market area), we’ll cover it.

To those who stuck with me through the entire time, I say thank you.

Even though there were tornadoes, there was only some minor damage.  As a meteorologist, it was really cool to use all of the tools that I don’t normally get to use.  I used everything from the velocity scope, which shows where the rotation is, to the lightning tracker and hail zone, which is used to track hail.  Am I hoping for another tornado outbreak? No.  But will I be prepared if there is another one?  Absolutely!

2 thoughts on “Two Tornadoes and a Microphone (and a Waterspout)

  1. Eric O. say:

    I watched that whole broadcast and think you guys did an excellent job informing those in the affected counties. I agree that that situation was much more important then the news. Although those tornadoes did not claim any lives which is great but just think if Wjac didn’t have that extensive coverage that day. You may have saved lives.

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