No tornadoes yet this year in Ohio, after 82 in past two years

Buildings on Troy's downtown square, including the buildings near North Market and Main streets that house Ruby's Beauty Salon and Thrush and Son Complete Home Improvement were heavily damaged in a January 2020 tornado. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Buildings on Troy's downtown square, including the buildings near North Market and Main streets that house Ruby's Beauty Salon and Thrush and Son Complete Home Improvement were heavily damaged in a January 2020 tornado. LISA POWELL / STAFF

After a combined 82 tornadoes the previous two years, Ohio hasn’t had single confirmed twister yet in 2021. But if one finally touches down, it will be the latest first tornado in a calendar year, according to National Weather Service records.

“It’s definitely been a very quiet year; very unusual,” said Matt Campbell, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office. “The ingredients just never seemed to come together for a severe weather outbreak here in Ohio or even just a single tornado.”

The latest in Ohio for a tornado touch down was June 12, 2013, when a twister landed in Van Wert County and another one in Mercer County, according to National Weather Service records.

Campbell said damaging tornadoes would typically have occurred by now, with the highest odds coming toward the end of May — right about when 2019′s damaging Memorial Day tornado outbreak hit the Miami Valley and other parts of the state.

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“As we go through the summer, it still can happen, but the likelihood goes down until the fall when we have another little peak in probability of occurrence of a tornado,” he said.

Much of the heat and humidity that spawn major storms stayed south of Ohio this year, Campbell said.

“If you look along the Gulf Coast this past spring, they had some pretty decent tornado outbreaks and severe weather outbreaks, while we were on the cool side of the boundary,” he said.

Indiana went without a tornado this year until June 8, registering three minor twisters in the southwest part of the state that day, according to the National Weather Service.

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During the previous two years, 80 of the 82 confirmed Ohio tornadoes occurred by the end of June, 70 of them touched down by June 15, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Events Database.

Last year, 24 tornadoes were reported in Ohio, none stronger than EF1 causing no injuries or deaths. Three EF0 tornadoes touched down in Miami County during 2020, one in January caused significant roof damage to buildings in downtown Troy. The last confirmed tornado in Ohio was Sept. 7, a weak EF0 in Delaware County that knocked down trees and damaged roofs.

Ohio recorded 58 tornadoes in 2019. The most powerful was the EF4 Memorial Day tornado across Montgomery County that accounted for 166 of the 180 tornado injuries that year. One fatality and six injuries were recorded in Mercer County by an EF3 tornado during the same outbreak, according to federal data.

Story continues after table.

Ohio tornadoes since 2010

YearThrough JuneAnnual totalInjuriesDeaths
* Through June 14, 2021
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Storm Events Database

The region is prone to pop-up thunderstorms later in the season, bringing dangerous lightning and damaging wind gusts but typically lacking all the ingredients needed for tornadoes, Campbell said.

Heat and humidity is normal during an Ohio summer, but the “kicking mechanism” for tornadoes, cold fronts, are fewer and weaker now, according to Campbell.

“In terms of widespread severe weather outbreaks, it’s a little bit less likely now going into the middle of summer,” he said. “But we don’t want to let our guard down. All it takes is one cold front that just happens to have all the right ingredients. It can happen any time of year.”

Just 13 severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued this year by the Wilmington office, an historically low number for its 52 counties in southwest and central Ohio, southeast Indiana and northern Kentucky, according to the office.

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Campbell said the state may have experienced a later first tornado, but tornado records with a large degree of certainty are not available much before the 1990s and went largely unrecorded before the 1950s, Campbell said.

“It’s hard to compare today’s records for tornadoes, to back then because a lot of tornadoes were undocumented,” he said. “If a tornado went through a field and the farmer didn’t see it, or even if he saw it, the likelihood of that getting documented just didn’t happen.”

The advancement of technology that allows meteorologists to forecast and detect tornadoes has become more accurate while the proliferation of smartphone and cameras provides citizen reports of tornadoes and storm damage in real time, Campbell said.

“It’s a totally new day in terms of documenting tornadoes, even compared to 20 years ago,” he said.

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