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Winter Weather Awareness: Tornadoes

Ohio averages one tornado a year during the winter season.
Ohio averages one tornado a year during the winter season.
Ohio averages one tornado a year during the winter season.(wtvg)
Published: Nov. 22, 2020 at 10:36 AM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - This week is Winter Weather Awareness Week, and you might be thinking of snow, cold, and wind. But we see all kinds of severe weather during the season, including tornadoes.

13abc reached out to the meteorologists at the Cleveland Forecasting Office for the National Weather Service. They say that, although tornadoes are rare in Ohio during the winter, they’re not unheard of.

Since 1950, the state of Ohio has seen 33 tornadoes in the winter. We’ve never seen a winter tornado in Lucas County, and Wood County only saw one in 1980.

On average, the entire state sees about one per year.

The strongest winter tornado in Ohio took place on February 18th, 1992 in Van Wert County, injuring six people. It was an EF4.

Meteorologist Alexa Maines tells 13abc, “Typically, winter tornadoes develop in abnormally warm and moist conditions. Temperatures can be as cool as the 50s, which is still above average for winter.” The most common month for winter tornadoes is February.

From 1950 to 2020, most winter tornadoes ranked as EF0 to EF1 (65 to 110 MPH wind). There have been a few EF2 tornadoes (111 to 135 MPH), 2 EF3′s (136 to 165 MPH), and one EF4 (166 to 200 MPH).

Maines explains that tornadoes happen in the winter “when there’s a cold front moving across the area. 53 So, the cold front will interact with the slightly unstable warm air.”

When it comes to forecasting and predicting tornadoes during the winter season, Maines says, “Forecasters aren’t always in the severe weather mindset when it happens. We’re usually pretty good at identifying when conditions are favorable, but it may not be the first thought when everyone’s thinking about snow.”

Thankfully, no winter tornadoes in Ohio have been deadly.

“Always be prepared for severe weather,” Maines warns. “Just because it’s winter and your mind is on snow, it doesn’t mean that severe weather can’t happen.”

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