TH2002

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Not as bad as Bridge Creek-Moore being labeled by NWS as "minimal F5" lol.
Really, I think Spencer should have been rated F5 or at least high-end F4 based on its damage, especially to the apartment.
Only comparable damage to an apartment building I can think of are these three-story apartment blocks that were devastated in Joplin, Missouri:
imagesjoplin-apartment-complex.jpg
 

locomusic01

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come to think, I'm not sure of an intense of a multi-story apartment complex being slabbed, but that's another discussion
Bridge Creek-Moore totally destroyed a couple of the multi-story apartments in the Emerald Springs complex and partially swept one away, which earned an F5 rating.

emerald-springs-apartments.jpg


It's strange that Spencer rarely gets mentioned among high-end violent tornadoes, which it most certainly was. I guess I can see why it's often overshadowed though, considering the number of extremely violent tornadoes in the few years surrounding it. The 2/22/98 Kissimmee outbreak probably deserves more attention than it gets, too.
 
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Re: the very narrow core, another interesting thing is that it still had a multivortex structure in at least some areas. The damage patterns bear that out, and several of the people I talked to who saw the tornado mentioned some variation of "two (or more) tornadoes spinning around and merging together." Must have been little subvortices the size of garden hoses lol
It could also be a reference to this thing I noticed in Ron Alfredo's video:

Screenshot 2021-06-18 at 18-52-11 1985 A Tornado Goes Through the Neighborhood Hermitage, Penn...png

It's a bit faint but if you look at the center of the photo (or 2:41 in his video) you can see what looks a skinny vortex of some sort on the outside of the funnel, could be a suction vortex but is more likely a horizontal vortex.
Another shot that seems to show these:



Screenshot 2021-06-18 at 18-56-28 1985 A Tornado Goes Through the Neighborhood Hermitage, Penn...png

You can see this one around 2:25 in his video.

Yet another demonstration of just how violent this tornado and event was, the helicity levels in that part of the country that day must have been intense. All the more remarkable for occurring far northeast.
 
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So, since my article obviously won't be ready for today's anniversary, I wanted to at least share something. This is simply the most remarkable series of tornado photos I've ever seen, and I'm not sure it's even close. It's not clear exactly who took them, but they were taken from near the intersection of Broadway & Spearman avenues in Wheatland, looking to the south and southeast. This would've been almost exactly half a mile from the core of the tornado (this is the full width of the path, remember - the core is much narrower):

torphotos.jpg


Anyway, the first photo here is taken when the tornado is roughly near the river.

wheatland-tornado-1-mike-sisic.jpg


By the second photo, you can already see it striking Yourga Trucking. I believe the huge piece of debris here is the roof, most of which was ripped off in one piece, crumpled up and tossed over a quarter-mile into someone's yard.

wheatland-tornado-2-mike-sisic.jpg


I think it's probably tearing up Wheatland Tube here, which is right next door.

wheatland-tornado-3-mike-sisic.jpg


In the next few photos, it's likely demolishing Sawhill Tubular and a number of homes scattered around it. The third photo especially gives you a better view of just how small the core is relative to the entire funnel/circulation.

wheatland-tornado-4-mike-sisic.jpg


wheatland-tornado-5-mike-sisic.jpg


wheatland-tornado-6-mike-sisic.jpg


Though the damage throughout this area is exceptionally intense, arguably the most violent damage along the entire path occurs as the tornado crosses the railroad tracks, growing a bit larger as it utterly obliterates a number of homes, businesses and industrial buildings.

wheatland-tornado-7-mike-sisic.jpg


wheatland-tornado-8-mike-sisic.jpg


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Basically the entire funnel swarms with debris as it finally speeds away across an unpopulated area.

wheatland-tornado-12-mike-sisic.jpg


wheatland-tornado-13-mike-sisic.jpg


wheatland-tornado-14-mike-sisic.jpg

As one of the photos is mentioned in this article, it seems reasonable to assume that they were taken by the salesman mentioned who later gave the undeveloped film to a resident of Hermitage.


Go to photo 2 of 4 on the slideshow to see the photo I mentioned.
 

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As one of the photos is mentioned in this article, it seems reasonable to assume that they were taken by the salesman mentioned who later gave the undeveloped film to a resident of Hermitage.


Go to photo 2 of 4 on the slideshow to see the photo I mentioned.
Yeah, the man mentioned in that article passed the photos on to another couple. I got them from the couple's son; he just wasn't sure of the original photographer's name.
 

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It could also be a reference to this thing I noticed in Ron Alfredo's video:

It's a bit faint but if you look at the center of the photo (or 2:41 in his video) you can see what looks a skinny vortex of some sort on the outside of the funnel, could be a suction vortex but is more likely a horizontal vortex.
Another shot that seems to show these:

You can see this one around 2:25 in his video.

Yet another demonstration of just how violent this tornado and event was, the helicity levels in that part of the country that day must have been intense. All the more remarkable for occurring far northeast.
Yeah, based on witness descriptions, several of the tornadoes appear to have had horizontal vortices at times. It's a shame there aren't more videos from that day because it sounds like many of the tornadoes underwent pretty fascinating evolutions. Some of the descriptions of the Saegertown-Centerville F3 (which was probably an F4, but anyway) make me picture something almost like Cullman. The Corry F4 expanded from ~150-200 yards to about 3/4 mile in the span of basically a few minutes. People described both the Atlantic and Tionesta F4s as being like some variation of "rolling fog banks." Some pretty interesting descriptions of the Albion tornado, too. One person said it very quickly grew and shrank multiple times, almost like the funnel was "breathing."
 
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Yeah, based on witness descriptions, several of the tornadoes appear to have had horizontal vortices at times. It's a shame there aren't more videos from that day because it sounds like many of the tornadoes underwent pretty fascinating evolutions. Some of the descriptions of the Saegertown-Centerville F3 (which was probably an F4, but anyway) make me picture something almost like Cullman. The Corry F4 expanded from ~150-200 yards to about 3/4 mile in the span of basically a few minutes. People described both the Atlantic and Tionesta F4s as being like some variation of "rolling fog banks." Some pretty interesting descriptions of the Albion tornado, too. One person said it very quickly grew and shrank multiple times, almost like the funnel was "breathing."
How rapid did Moshannon State Forest expand? The impression I got was it wedged out to 2+ miles within minutes of touchdown.
Sidenote, but this tornado's maximum path width of 2.25 miles and path length of ~70 miles makes it virtually identical to the 2020 Bassfield tornado, aside from being further north, obviously.
 

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How rapid did Moshannon State Forest expand? The impression I got was it wedged out to 2+ miles within minutes of touchdown.
Sidenote, but this tornado's maximum path width of 2.25 miles and path length of ~70 miles makes it virtually identical to the 2020 Bassfield tornado, aside from being further north, obviously.
It was about 1/4 mi wide through the first 6-7 miles of the path. It rapidly expanded to ~1.5 mi around the time it entered Parker Dam State Park and more or less maintained that (give or take 1/4 mi here and there) for just under 50 miles. The only time it reached 2+ mi is when it crossed the Susquehanna River just south of Keating, where it remained between 2-2.25 mi wide for about four miles before "shrinking" back to 1.5-1.75 mi.

Still super impressive, though.
 
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It was about 1/4 mi wide through the first 6-7 miles of the path. It rapidly expanded to ~1.5 mi around the time it entered Parker Dam State Park and more or less maintained that (give or take 1/4 mi here and there) for just under 50 miles. The only time it reached 2+ mi is when it crossed the Susquehanna River just south of Keating, where it remained between 2-2.25 mi wide for about four miles before "shrinking" back to 1.5-1.75 mi.

Still super impressive, though.
I guess there's no known photographs of it? Have you found any interesting eyewitness accounts from park rangers or visitors of it?
 
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You can see how quickly it went from being a pretty large tornado to a historically gigantic one just as it entered Parker Dam.

map2.jpg


And even as huge as it already was, the portion of the path where it really maxes out stands out quite clearly.

map.jpg
Looks like it maxes out right as it was turning, I think this was when it entered a valley, perhaps the terrain influenced the widening of it as well as its movement?
 

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I guess there's no known photographs of it? Have you found any interesting eyewitness accounts from park rangers or visitors of it?
Not of the tornado itself, no. And yeah, there weren't a lot of people in the path, but I've got a handful of accounts and talked to two people who were there. I'm hoping to get down there in person pretty soon because the park has over a hundred photos and slides in their records. They've sent some stuff over and are supposed to be sending more soon, but I'd like to look through everything myself.
 

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Looks like it maxes out right as it was turning, I think this was when it entered a valley, perhaps the terrain influenced the widening of it as well as its movement?
Yeah, the river valley there is narrow and steep, especially on the eastern side. Pretty clearly deflected the tornado northward across the face of the slope. The tornado also intensified and there was evidence of the "inflow vortices" that Greg Forbes described. The same thing is evident in several of the other tornadoes that crossed river valleys, albeit not always to that extent.
 

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Speaking of apartment buildings, you all mentioned Spencer and Joplin but what about the infamous Huntsville Airport Road Tornado of November 15, 1989? This tornado was one of the most interesting cases of a mesoscale accident occurring. The tornado was produced by an isolated supercell right before it merged with the squall line behind it. The isolated supercell had been in the open warm sector by itself for 4 hours and had failed to produce a tornado. However, as it began to merge with the squall line, apparently the squall line let out some form of outflow convection (perhaps an outflow boundary) that wrapped around the convergence zone already present with the supercell and led to the rapid formation of the F4 Tornado,

19891115HUNTSVILLE24.jpg
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TH2002

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Speaking of apartment buildings, you all mentioned Spencer and Joplin but what about the infamous Huntsville Airport Road Tornado of November 15, 1989? This tornado was one of the most interesting cases of a mesoscale accident occurring. The tornado was produced by an isolated supercell right before it merged with the squall line behind it. The isolated supercell had been in the open warm sector by itself for 4 hours and had failed to produce a tornado. However, as it began to merge with the squall line, apparently the squall line let out some form of outflow convection (perhaps an outflow boundary) that wrapped around the convergence zone already present with the supercell and led to the rapid formation of the F4 Tornado,

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I forgot about that one for a little while but WOW that is some intense damage. Were those apartment buildings swept from their foundations by the tornado or has cleanup already taken place?
 

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I forgot about that one for a little while but WOW that is some intense damage. Were those apartment buildings swept from their foundations by the tornado or has cleanup already taken place?
Like Plainfield I also believe someone filmed the supercell that later spawned the tornado.
 
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Interesting that the Huntsville tornado of 1989 was a "mesoscale accident," seeing as a high risk was in effect that day so the synoptic scale conditions should have been favorable for violent tornado development.

I remember the Spencer, SD tornado of 1998 primarily because the supercell (and perhaps others in the area) eventually turned into one of the most powerful derechos to ever occur in the upper Midwest (before the one last August, anyway) overnight. A high risk was then issued for parts of PA/NY as it turned back into tornadic supercells that afternoon, ironically again on a May 31 although nothing anywhere near as violent as 1985.
 

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