Scioto High Winds not a Tornado

They came and left in a flash leaving many to believe a tornado had struck in Eastern Scioto County this past Saturday. Tony has the tale of the wind storm's tape.

12 AM Wednesday Update

One WSAZ.COM reader asks an interesting question in the comment section.

"Is it possible to have straight line winds in the same area directly near a tornado spawning cell?"

The answer is absolutely. The same severe turbulence that fosters tornadic growth is also responsible for downburst (aka straight line)winds.

Since straight line winds occur close to or in concert with parent cells that spawn twisters, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the two forms of wind.

Scioto Storm Fury

As I sat down for an afternoon of watching the U.S. Woman’s Open golf championship on Saturday, I had one eye on American cutie Cristie Kerr, the leader on the course, and a second on the local Doppler Radar scope.

The best lady golfers in the world were trying their best to win the national championship of American golf while I was pondering a possible severe weather event.

Chris Bailey had alerted us to the prospects of severe weather on his Friday night broadcasts. On Saturday morning Josh Fitzpatrick had echoed the afternoon storm threat. Still, until storms form, it is often a crap shoot as to when and where they will hit.

The air had turned tropically muggy for my late morning jog, so I sensed some tropical downpours would soon grace our presence.

Around 4 PM as Cristie extended her lead, a scroll crossed the WSAZ airways. A Tornado Warning had been issued for Pike County Ohio. While technically not in our viewing area, we extend Pike County the courtesy of storm warnings for those who do watch us there. We also like to alert people in nearby Jackson, Scioto and Vinton Counties that they may be next.

By this time, a huge blob of red painted the Doppler radar screen in Pike County. An animation showed that red blob was headed for Scioto County.

Within a few minutes word of 2 tornado touchdowns in Ross County near Chillicothe and a second in Pike County not far from Piketon was followed by a tornado warning for Scioto County. That storm was traveling south along US 23 and meant business along the Scioto Trail. Josh interrupted our coverage of the Open with a severe weather bulletin geared to high winds and a possible twister for Scioto County.

Turned out the parent cell that had produced the tornado winds in the Pike and Ross was now swooping thru Scioto. With Portsmouth, Lucasville, Minford, New Boston and Wheelersburg in the path of the storm, Scioto Countians by the thousands were asked to seek safe shelter immediately.

During the next 30 minutes fierce winds clocked in excess of 90 miles per hour (true hurricane force) raked the eastern end of Scioto County. Reports of grooves of tall trees being felled accompanied widespread flooding as the storms passed the county.

An inspection of the damage caused by the storms was performed on Sunday and Monday by my colleagues from the National Weather Service in Wilmington Ohio. Their trained eyes were able to distinguish a pattern of damage that was not circular but instead straight line in appearance. That was a dead give away that the winds were not tornadic.

But given the force of the winds exceeded 90 mph, the effect from the storm was just as impressive and potent as if a tornado had struck.

In Wheelersburg, these were likely the fiercest winds in some 40 years, since the deadly tornado of April 23, 1968. That day a super cell rotating thunderstorm had dropped an F5 rated maxi-tornado as it raked Eastern Scioto on its trip into Gallia County.

My point here is that whether straight line or tornadic, it's the strength of the wind not the nature of the gusts (circular or linear) that determine damage to property and threats to life.

I will add to this blog later tonight when I will also add pictures of the damage left behind by this violent wind storm.
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