Tornadoes in November? It’s not as uncommon as you might think

Fifteen years ago, a tornado devastated Clark, Pennsylvania in Mercer County

Clark, Pennsylvania tornado
Destruction in the aftermath of Clark's tornado

MERCER CO., Pa. (WYTV) – Thursday night, some families are still displaced and some businesses have had to change things up after seeing heavy damage from Sunday’s storms. But this isn’t the first time area residents have had to clean up after storms in November.

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of chatter about the recent tornado outbreak in the region. It surprised many who didn’t expect severe storms this time of year.

But severe storms in November aren’t too far out of the norm. Just ask people living in Mercer County 15 years ago.

“You have emergencies that come up and they stick with ya, certain ones stick with ya, and this is one that you simply remember it,” Ron Sanford said.

November 10, 2002 is a day still fresh in his mind. Today, just as it was 15 years ago, Sanford serves as emergency management coordinator for the borough of Clark, Pennsylvania.

Before the storms arrived, he remembers it being unseasonably warm.

“It was a warm day and as the day went on, it started to rain. It rained pretty hard,” Sanford said.

Eventually, that rain turned much more violent. Just before 8 p.m., an F2 tornado touched down near Trout Island Road, just east of Sharpsville. The tornado traveled northeast at 50 miles per hour, crossed Route 18, then ripped into Clark.

“The yards were filled with debris, wires down, poles down,” Sanford said.

Among the hardest hit areas were Milton and Nora streets. When the tornado reached this area, it was producing winds around 155 miles per hour and was about 500 yards wide.

Fifteen homes were completely destroyed, 13 suffered major damage, and another 29 had minor damage.

Charles Templeton, 81, lost his life.

It was the worst tornado since May 31, 1985.

“I thought tornado season was over and having a tornado come through at that time was the last thing on my mind,” Sanford said.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday when storms ripped through the area, leaving a path of destruction. While many said it shouldn’t be happening in November, severe weather can come up any time of the year if you have the right ingredients.

There are four things that need to be present for a tornado to form:

  • Shear from upper-level winds, such as the jet stream
  • Lift, usually from approaching cold air
  • Instability caused by warmer, unstable air
  • Moisture

Just like in 2002, those ingredients lined up perfectly over the area on Sunday.

The Valley is no stranger to severe November weather. Over the last 67 years, there were reports of severe weather in November each year.

In 1969, trees were downed and a roof was ripped off of a motel in Poland.

In 1988, a 72 mph wind gust was recorded in Columbiana County and billboards toppled in Canfield.

In 1998, trees and power lines were downed in Mahoning County — some of them falling on cars.

Until Sunday, the Clark tornado was our only recorded tornado in November.

There were 17 tornadoes in Ohio this past Sunday and one in Pennsylvania.

It’s important to always be prepared, have a safety plan, and stay weather alert when strong storms are a threat. Regardless of what the calendar says, severe weather can happen at any time.