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Virginia's Weather HistoryVirginia Weather and Disaster StatisticsPresidentially Declared Disasters

Virginia's Weather History

Virginia Tornadoes

A tornado is a column of rapidly rotating wind that extends from a thunderstorm cloud to the ground. It often appears as a funnel shaped cloud or a spiraling column of debris. Tornadoes may be only several yards across, or in rare cases, over a mile wide. Winds within a tornado can reach speeds over 250 mph, but most tornado winds are 100 mph or less. Weak tornadoes (F0-F1) often last only a minute before dissipating. Strong tornadoes (F2-F3) may stay on the ground for 30 minutes or more traveling 20 or even 50 miles. The rare, violent tornado (F4-F5) can last hours and travel over a hundred miles. The longest track tornado on record occurred on March 18, 1925 and is known as the "Tri-State Tornado". It cut a swath of damage across the Upper Mississippi Valley for three and a half hours. It traveled 219 miles, killed 695 people and injured over 2000. Fortunately, only one percent of thunderstorms produce tornadoes and only two percent of those are classified as violent (winds over 200 mph).

From 1950 through the year 2001, 376 tornadoes were documented in Virginia. That is an average of 7 tornadoes per year. Nationally, statistics have suggested that prior to 1990, only a third of all tornadoes were actually recorded. Many occurred in unpopulated areas or caused little property damage and therefore are not reported to the National Weather Service. Others may have been recorded as wind events instead of tornadoes. Based on these statistics, the actual average number of tornadoes that Virginia likely experiences in a year is between 15 and 20. Tornado fatality records began in 1916 and since then only 65 people have been known to have died from tornadoes in Virginia. A third of these deaths occurred during a tornado outbreak on May 2, 1929, Virginia's worst tornado outbreak.

Fujita Scale of Tornado Winds and Damage: Statistics from 1950-2006; Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale definition 2007
F Scale
Class.
MPH
Damage
# in VA
%
Deaths / Injuries
Damages
($ Mil)
EF Scale Class. MPH
F0
Weak
40-72
Light damage. Tree branches snapped; antennas and signs damaged.
183
34
0 / 0
8.2
EF0 Weak 65-85
F1
Moderate
73-112
Moderate damage. Roofs off; trees snapped; trailers moved or overturned.
253
47
1 / 97
65.5
EF1 Moderate 86-110
F2
Strong
113-157
Considerable damage. Weak structures and trailers demolished; cars blown off road.
80
15
3 / 94
148.2
EF2 Strong 111-135
F3
Severe
158-206
Roofs and some walls torn off well constructed buildings; some rural buildings demolished; cars lifted and tumbled.
24
4
19 / 104
140.5
EF3 Severe 136-165
F4
Devastating
207-260
Houses leveled leaving piles of debris; cars thrown some distance.
2
0.1
4 / 248
50
EF4 Devastating 166-200
F5
Incredible
261-318
Well built houses lifted off foundation and disintegrated with debris carried some distance.
0
0
n/a
n/a
EF5 Incredible >200

All records were nearly broken on August 6, 1993 when one deadly tornado killed four and injured 238 people. It was the first recorded violent tornado in Virginia since 1950. Maximum winds were estimated up to 225 mph from damage in downtown Petersburg. From 1950 until 1993 (44 years), only 192 tornado injuries had been recorded. That one tornado more than doubled that number. In just four hours, 18 tornadoes struck. 1993 went on to record 29 tornadoes for the year breaking the old record of 22 set in 1975. The least active year on record was 1982 with only one tornado reported.

July is the most active month for tornadoes in Virginia. The hot, humid days common to July are often accompanied by a late afternoon or evening thunderstorm. The hot temperatures and humidity of the late afternoon fuel the thunderstorm's growth. If certain conditions are right, a tornado may develop. However, no tornado deaths have occurred in Virginia in July. Most of July's tornadoes tend to be weak (91% are F0 or F1- see table below). Tornado deaths in Virginia peak in the late spring and again in the fall. While not as many tornadoes occur during those months, those that do, tend to be stronger and therefore have a greater potential to be deadly.

The daily and annual records for tornadoes were shattered in 2004, when 87 tornadoes struck the Commonwealth. The remnants of hurricanes Gaston, Frances and Ivan spawned nearly 80 percent of them in a three-week period between Aug. 30 and Sept. 18. The remnants of Ivan spawned 40 tornadoes on Sept. 7, setting Virginia’s record for the most tornadoes in a single day. Ivan’s one day of tornadoes also broke the record for number of tornadoes in a year; the previous record year was 31 tornadoes in 2003.

Virginia Tornadoes by Month: 1950-2001
 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
F0-F1
3
10
16
34
31
40
63
38
18
20
9
2
F2-F4
3
0
3
10
13
12
8
13
13
11
5
0
Total
6
10
19
44
44
52
71
51
31
31
14
2
% weak
50
100
84
77
70
77
89
75
58
65
64
100
% Strong
50
0
16
23
30
23
11
25
42
35
36
0

Strong tornadoes are usually produced by thunderstorms associated with strong, late spring and fall cold fronts or low pressure systems approaching the state. Under these atmospheric conditions, stronger winds aloft tend to lead to more intense and longer lasting thunderstorms. This in turn increases the risk of a strong or deadly tornado. The good news is that these strong atmospheric conditions are more predictable with tornado watches posted in advance of the storms. The stronger tornadoes are also more likely to be detected by Doppler radar during their early development. This gives a forecaster a chance to provide advanced warning. Virginia now has three Weather Service Doppler Radars: One in Wakefield (between Norfolk and Richmond), one on a mountain outside Roanoke, and one in the Sterling/Herndon area.

Tornado Deaths/Injuries by Month: 1800 to 2001
 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
# of tornadoes causing death / injury
3
1
7
15
15
5
9
10
14
6
6
1
# of deaths
2
0
5
7
32
5
2
6
17
2
2
0
# of injuries
12
5
44
74
226
52
29
287
74
13
118
7

When hurricanes and the remnants of strong hurricanes pass by Virginia, it is not uncommon for tornadoes to be spawned. Many of the strong and deadly September tornadoes in Virginia's history were spawned by hurricanes. At least 15 hurricanes this century have spawned tornadoes in the Commonwealth and you can find more accounts in the 19th century records. These events are documented in the chronology following this section.

Hurricanes Spawning Tornadoes

Some areas in Virginia do appear slightly more prone than others. It is believed that this is caused by topographical influences on thunderstorms such as the change in low-level wind flow and humidity caused by the orientation of the mountains and the Chesapeake Bay. Below is a map showing tornado occurrence by county. One maxima is seen in Northern Virginia to the lee of the Blue Ridge. This maxima extends northeast across Maryland into southeast Pennsylvania. A second maxima extends from North Carolina northeast toward Petersburg. Smaller maxims are in the southern Shenandoah Valley near Staunton and Harrisonburg and one that comes up from Tennessee into extreme Southwest Virginia near Bristol. Some bias must also be accounted for by population density with the denser population areas more likely to report a tornado.

Virginia's tidewater counties see a small tornado maxima for two reasons. Both are related to the Chesapeake Bay and coast. One reason is that waterspouts are not uncommon. Occasionally a waterspout will come onshore and do some damage. Once the waterspout comes onshore, it is considered a tornado and is generally classified as a F0. In 2000, 16 waterspouts were reported into NOAA's Storm Data publication. Of the 16, three moved onto land as a tornado. The second reason this area sees an increase in tornadoes is that often during the warm months there is a bay breeze or sea breeze front (bay or sea cooled air on one side of the front and land heated air on the other). When a large rotating thunderstorm moves over a boundary/front such as this, there is an increased chance that conditions will be right for the development of a tornado.

Virginia Tornado Stories
18th Century Virginia Tornadoes

The following accounts are from David M. Ludlum's "Early American Tornadoes: 1586-1870" published by the American Meteorological Society, Boston, MA, 1970.

February 10, 1776: A tornado struck the lower Rappahannock river area between 1 and 2 am on a Saturday morning. It appeared to have been spawn by a thunderstorm in advance of a strong cold front which moved through around 6 am. At one tobacco farm, it damaged several buildings and killed 4 sheep and 3 lambs. Near Bramham's mill pond, all the houses were lost and trees blown down.

April 6, 1790: Tornado struck Charles City and Dinwiddie Counties destroying four mills and blowing down four houses at the New Glass Manufactory with people in them who were injured but not killed.

19th Century Virginia Tornadoes

August 25, 1814: This tornado struck Northern Virginia and Washington, DC during the burning of the Capitol by British soldiers in the "War of 1812." It was first documented in Leesburg, Loudoun County where a tornado injured two people. The Washington newspaper wrote that there was much forest damage. It is not known if this tornado moved southeast into Washington or if more than one tornado occurred. In Washington the tornado blew off roofs and chimneys through the residential areas. The swirling debris killed and wounded more British soldiers in the city then the American troops did.

In addition to David Ludlum's research, many of the following accounts prior to 1950 were obtained from the book "Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991" by Dr. Thomas Grazulis. Published by The Tornado Project of Environmental Films, St. Johnson, VT., July 1993.

July 27, 1816: A tornado touched down in Henrico County and moved near Manchester, killing two people and injuring 3 more. It was on the ground about 14 miles.

June 4, 1817: A tornado touched down in Henrico County moved east from the southern part of Chickahominy (about 15 miles north of downtown Richmond) across Henrico County to the Pamunky River in King William County, causing widespread destruction. The tornado was about 200 to 300 yards wide. It swept over several plantations. One person was killed and four injured in Hanover and another was killed in King William County. Leaves and twigs fell on Richmond. "The whirlwind extended to a dark bluish cloud, whirling the lower end if it as quick as a millstone."

August 15, 1818: A tornado struck Stafford County near Aquia, crossed over the Potomac near Quantico and moved into Charles County, Maryland to near Mattawoman. On land, the tornado laid down trees and fences and damaged houses. The Alexandria Gazette quoted Captain Fugitt who witnessed the storm, "The gale did not extend further than from Mattawoman to Aquia in its full force; between which places the country is generally laid waste. The force of the gale was such as exceeds all comparison". On the Potomac, several vessels were sunk in which an estimated 30 lives were lost.

April 1819: A tornado moved through the northern end of the city of Petersburg causing structural damage. The tornado path was about a half a mile wide.

February 1820: A tornado struck Richmond around midnight causing extensive structural damage.

March 7, 1830: A tornado touched down in Halifax County and moved northeast of Meadesville destroying cabins and barns. The tornado damage path was about a quarter of a mile wide and 15 to 20 miles long. Many plantation houses were blown down. Three people were killed by a falling chimney after surviving the initial destruction of their home. Eight other people were injured.

May 5, 1834: A tornado or family of tornadoes struck between 3 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon and tracked 70 miles across Lunenburg, Nottoway, Dinwiddie and Prince George Counties. It began about 2 miles north of Victoria, near Hungrytown and passed about 5 miles south of Petersburg then moved into Prince George County about 2 miles south of the James River. The path was a half a mile wide in places, but narrowed with time to about 100 yards. There was immense damage to the forest. Homes were destroyed on several dozen farms and plantations. Debris was carried more than a mile. "The dense cone of clouds seemed all the while boiling up like a vast cauldron." An official account stated that 70 to 80 houses were blown down. Ten people were killed and about 40 people were injured. That evening another tornado moved through Caroline County and was nearly as violent and destructive, but smaller in extent.

June 4, 1834: Just one month after the big May 5 tornado, another outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes occurred. It began west of the Blue ridge Mountains in Rockbridge County. The wind and hail was the most destructive storm to hit the county in their memory. The damage path was some 18 miles long and up to 6 miles wide. The hail stones were said to be hen egg size with some measuring 8 to 9 inches in circumference. Trees and fields were flattened and windows broken. Another wind and hail storm struck Woodstock, Shenandoah County. It destroyed crops and fruit trees, laid fences and broke thousands of window panes. The hail was walnut size. Two large tornadoes were documented, while many more tornadoes likely occurred in such an outbreak.

A tornado touched down in Chesterfield County and moved 20 miles east-southeast passing about 10 miles north of Petersburg to near Broadway in Prince George County. The damage area was described in several accounts as being 3 miles wide. It damaged houses, destroyed outbuildings and leveled crops and trees.

Another tornado touched down in Nottoway County and moved east-southeast across Dinwiddie, Sussex and Southampton Counties. It destroyed forest and plantations crossing the path of the long track tornado from just a month earlier. Some plantations were damaged by both tornadoes. The damage track was said to be 3 miles wide and it was 80 miles long. The large width of damage might be explained by an account in the Farmville Journal which stated "The width of the tract is not more than two or three miles, and it would seem, that along this tract, there passed several and different whirlwinds, always very narrow in their respective tracts, in which alone, does there appear to have been any great danger." Another account stated that the funnel "performed a very whimsical and winding journey." This was perhaps a multiple vortex tornado or a large thunderstorm with more than one tornado. There were 2 killed and 20 injured with 15 of the injuries on one plantation.

June 21, 1834: A tornado moved southeast over part of Williamsburg between 5 and 6 p.m., destroying several homes and about 40 chimneys. Boats were capsized in the James River, south of town. Three people were killed and 20 more were injured. Either the same storm or another one also struck Prince George County. Hail from the storm lay on the ground for up to fourteen hours.

March 4, 1842: A tornado hit Cartersville in Cumberland County at about 6 p.m. The path was about 8 miles long and almost a mile wide. Three people were injured.

May 7, 1860: Tornado struck Loudoun County and tore down a railroad bridge and uprooted trees.

July 5, 1877: At Wytheville (Wythe County), a half dozen trees two feet in diameter were twisted off their base.

September 12, 1878: A hurricane spawned a tornado outbreak with 5 significant tornadoes recorded. The first tornado hit around 1 pm southeast of Petersburg. The second one moved west-northwest and northwest in Dinwiddie County through Ford's Depot. Trees, a barn, and small homes were destroyed. The third tornado struck Nottoway and moved northwest from 1 mile west of Burkeville. The fourth tornado hit Henrico County and destroyed small homes at Boshers Dam. One person was killed and 7 were injured. The fifth tornado hit Goochland around 4 pm. It was on the ground for about 28 miles and moved northwest near Dover Mines.

April 18, 1887: Around 6:30 pm, a tornado hit 6 miles northwest of Suffolk at Myrtle Station. It killed 2 people and injured 2 more in a home and scattered debris for a mile.

May 11, 1889: A tornado touched down around 4 pm in Cumberland County and moved about 10 miles northeast, destroying a small home. Two people were killed and one injured.

April 24, 1896: Around 4:30 pm, a tornado moved northeast from Salem into Roanoke destroying a bowling alley and several other buildings. A framed building near the bowling alley was leveled, killing 3 of the 8 member family in the house. The five others were injured.

July 8, 1896: At around 5 pm, a tornado moved northwest between "Reams Station" and "Templeton" about 10 miles southeast of Petersburg. This tornado looked like dense smoke of a forest fire. All 9 injures were in one house. Timbers were carried 300 yards. Clothes were carried a mile. This was one of at least 7 tornadoes spawned by a hurricane in Virginia on that day. Another tornado hit Surry and James City. It moved northwest for about 17 miles. It was seen to turn white as it crossed the James River above Williamsburg. At least two, perhaps five, people were injured as barns and small houses were destroyed northwest of Williamsburg.

20th Century Virginia Tornadoes

September 22, 1900: At around 7 pm in Augusta County, a tornado moved northeast from a mile west of Mint Spring to Barterbrook. A mother and child were severely injured when a small home was destroyed and scattered for a half mile.

August 6, 1901: At 1:10 am, a tornado/waterspout moved east-northeast up the James River at Norfolk, then hit land, and moved north-northwest, then north-northeast in an "s-shaped path". A row of six brick homes were unroofed and 7 others were damaged. One person was injured.

February 21, 1912: A tornado moved north-northeast for 4 miles from Buckingham into Fluvanna Counties crossing the James River 2 miles west of Breno Bluff. At least one home was destroyed and 5 people were injured.

August 3, 1915: A hurricane spawned a tornado in Dinwiddie County that moved 5 miles northwest and destroyed a small home 6 miles south of Petersburg. It then cut a swath across the Poplar Grove National Cemetery. Hundreds of trees were uprooted and a farm was unroofed. 3 people were injured. A second tornado was spawned in Caroline County. It moved northwest for 2 miles destroying a barn and unroofing several homes and a hotel at Milford.

Beginning in 1916, Official Weather Service Records begin keeping data on all killer tornadoes....

October 29, 1917: At around 10:30 pm in Pittsylvania County, a tornado moved north-northeast 2 miles near Gretna, killing a baby and injuring at least 4 other people. It curved north and dissipated east of Motley. Fifteen buildings including 6 homes were destroyed.

August 7, 1922: In Albemarle County at around 3 pm, a tornado moved east and east-southeast from just east of Crozet, passing across Mechum and Ivy, and ending on the campus of the University of Virginia. The tornado was destroyed a barn and unroofed the Mechum railroad deport and part of a home. Over 1000 trees were blown down on just one farm. East of Ivy, a second tornado was said to have formed, but it did little property damage as it moved northeast.

April 29, 1923: A tornado moved over an island 13 miles south of Virginia Beach. Three small homes and two barns were destroyed near the Little Island Coast Guard Station. Two people were injured.

April 30, 1924: A tornado touched down in Amelia County and tracked 10 miles killing one and injuring 7 others. It was described as a "dense column of smoke". It moved northeast from 4 miles southeast of Jetersville, passing through Maplewood destroying seven homes. It passed east of the town of Amelia and turned north-northeast and ended south of Chula. A man was killed when his barn was destroyed.

November 26, 1926: A waterspout came ashore from Elizabeth River and collapsed two 700 foot long warehouses. Two men were killed in the wreckage and another 3 were injured.

November 17, 1927: A tornado touched down in a rural part of Fairfax County and moved northeast across the western part of Alexandria, then across the Potomac River and Washington, DC into Maryland. Over 100 people were injured in Alexandria as over 200 homes were unroofed and torn apart.

May 2, 1929, "Virginia's Deadliest Tornado Outbreak": It has been said that tornadoes do not occur in mountainous areas. This is false. It was a warm May day with a cold front moving in from the west. The first tornado hit Rye Cove in Scott County in extreme southwest Virginia. The elevation of Rye Cove is about 1500 feet and it sits between two ridges that rise another 500 feet above. The tornado struck the school house and the principal described what he saw:

"It was raining at the time, 11:55 a.m., and classes were recessed for noon. About 25 children were in the building, the remainder being on the playground. I was walking down the hall when I saw what looked like a whirlwind coming up the hollow. Trees were swaying and as the whirlwind neared the building, it became a black cloud. It struck the building and I believe I yelled. The next thing I remember, I was standing knee-deep in a pond 75 feet from where the building stood. I was badly shaken up and frightened and surprised that I was able to wade out of the water. Bodies of children were scattered over a wide radius."

Twelve children and a teacher were killed and 42 more were injured. The school was an oak-framed, well-constructed, two-story building. It contained 10 classrooms and an assembly room. An eyewitness from a nearby hillside saw two clouds rush together about a mile down the valley. They formed the tornado that struck the school just moments later. The school collapsed and pieces were scattered up to 2 miles. The tornado continued on for a few miles, but fortunately, no other communities were in its path. Several buildings in Rye Cove were destroyed. A total of 100 people were injured. Read more about the incident.

At Woodville in Rappahannock County, the tornado was first seen a mile south of the town. In just a few moments, it moved through the town destroying most of the buildings including the high school. One student was crushed and killed by debris; 13 other students and 2 teachers were injured. Five were hospitalized. Some were found unconscious 200 yards away from were the school had been. There was nothing left of it. People felt it was a miracle that more were not dead. Continuing to the northeast, the tornado destroyed several homes at Flint Hill and killed two people. The tornado tracked 13 miles in Rappahannock County killing three people and injuring 30 more.

In Bath and Alleghany Counties lies Cowpasture Valley. This valley is at an elevation of 1500 feet and lies between two ridges that rise 1000 feet above the valley. A tornado struck around 6 pm. Property losses in Coronation and Sitlington were great. At least 10 people were injured, but none were killed. An eyewitness watched the tornado form near his home. He described everything within 250 to 800 yards of the tornado's path being destroyed. The postmaster at Covington followed the storm 17 miles. He watched it take out 150 apple trees, lift the roof off a house, and sweep away a barn. In the barn, a woman was milking a cow. She was found some distance from where the barn had stood, under its floor. One edge of the barn floor was resting on a stone wall and she, miraculously, was not injured, nor were the six cows that had been in the barn. Poultry houses were swept away and chickens were found dead and almost featherless.
The town of Hamilton is in Loudoun County about eight miles east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and six miles northwest of Leesburg. Elevation is around 1500 feet. Here, the tornado path was 200 yards across and two miles long. It destroyed a house, barn and some smaller buildings at one farm. The husband and wife were injured, but only a cow was killed. Other nearby farms were damaged as well as a brick church.

At 7:30 pm, a strong tornado struck Lagrange in Culpeper County. Two people were killed when their house was destroyed. The tornado tracked 10 miles into Fauquier County. It traveled another eight miles and struck Weaversville, killing four people and seriously injuring others. Eight people were sent to the hospital. Two homes and a 14-room brick building were demolished; others were severely damaged. A total of 15 people were injured. Also, a herd of 15 cattle was killed and more died later from injuries. An eyewitness described the event in a local newspaper...

"I was in my house and heard a terrible roar like several trains. I looked out and saw black clouds swirling overhead. Trees were bent to the ground and the house rattled. It was about 7:30 p.m. A neighbor told me the cyclone had hit down the road, making it difficult to drive. As I reached the place most severely struck by the storm, I saw houses that had been flattened, telephone wires were all over the place and debris was over a radius of several hundred yards. It was raining in torrents and the wind was still blowing hard. Then came the task of pulling the dead and injured from the ruins."

There were five tornadoes reported on that day. More may have struck remote areas. Twenty-two people were killed and over 150 injured with at least a half a million dollars in damages. Four schools were destroyed; two of which were empty due to the late hour. The severe storms moved northeast into Maryland where at least two more tornadoes struck in four counties. Six people were killed and at least a dozen more injured.

January 5, 1931: A woman was killed when a tornado collapsed her small farm house 1 mile southeast of Boynton.

March 28, 1932: At just past midnight, a home was destroyed by a F2 tornado near Centerville in Goochland County. Four people were critically injured. A second strong tornado (F2) struck in Essex County at 1:15 am. A boy was killed and his family (3) were injured as a home was destroyed at Loretto. About 20 miles to the Southwest, near Casco in Hanover County, a barn was destroyed by what might have been a related tornado.

September 5, 1935: A hurricane spawned a series of strong tornadoes in Virginia. The first one was in Pittsylvania County around 10 am where it destroyed a home near Ringgold. The family (3 people) was injured as they ran from the house as it was being torn apart. The next tornado struck Prince Edward and Cumberland Counties killing two people and injuring 12. It moved from Hampton Sidney to 3 miles west of Farmville. At Hampton Sidney College, huge trees were uprooted and the administration building was unroofed. A nearby home was destroyed and one person was killed. Near the end of the track, another home was leveled killing another person. The storm also dropped 16 inches of rain. Another tornado struck Southampton County near Courtland killing one person. The fourth documented tornado struck the Norfolk area. An article in the American Meteorological Society Bulletin (Vol.16, No.11,pp252-255) from 1935 called "Meteorological Features and History of Tornado in Norfolk, Virginia" by J.J. Murphy described the following:

A tornado near Norfolk, VA, began by destroying trees and sheds on a point of land. The twister then crossed a creek, sending up the water so that the creek bottom was plainly visible and gouged out the exposed mud, carried anchored small boats onto the shore, ripped off part of a heavy pier, and destroyed some buildings. It became a waterspout in Hampton Roads, but changed back to a tornado and dumped a railroad gondola car and some refrigerator cars off the tracks in a railroad yard; then sucked up another creek, damaged some airplane hangers; and finally headed up the Chesapeake Bay as a waterspout.

The tornado tracked from Jordansville (now part of Portsmouth) northeast through the western portions of the city of Norfolk, across Craney Island, the Norfolk Naval Air Station, and onto Willoughby Spit. The last tornado hit in Goucester County around 7:15 in the evening. It moved northeast about 8 miles destroying 3 homes from Wood's Crossing to Deltaville and Christ Church injuring 6 people. At least two other smaller tornadoes touched down near the Middlesex County line.

May 20, 1938: At 1:30 pm in Culpeper County, a tornado destroyed a barn and a home was unroofed near Culpeper, at "Inlet". A second tornado struck around 3:30 pm and moved 8 miles to the northeast beginning near the Rappahannock River and passing 5 miles south of Farmham in Richmond County. A house was destroyed killing the mother and two of her 10 children. The father watched the tragedy helplessly from a distant field on the farm.

August 19, 1939: A hurricane spawned a tornado which moved 25 miles north-northwest from Westmoreland County across the Potomac River into St. Marys County, Maryland. In Virginia, a home and a fish factory were destroyed near Reedville. As the funnel moved offshore, a man drowned when his boat was overturned. In Maryland, three homes were destroyed and another person was killed. A total of 20 people were injured.

August 12, 1941: A tornado skipped northeast 4 miles through Dinwiddie and the City of Petersburg, unroofing part of three factories and blowing down smokestacks. A man was killed by flying debris.

March 4, 1944: In Lee, Wise, and Scott Counties, what was probably an F3 tornado tracked 30 miles and injured 32 people. It may have been two separate tornadoes moving east-northeast from Pennington Gap, passing over an elevation of nearly 4000 feet and hitting Flatwoods in northern Scott County. There was extensive damage along the path. At Flatwoods, 9 homes and 20 barns were destroyed. Another tornado touched down in Washington County. It moved east-southeast unroofing homes in the Stonewall Heights area on the north side of Abingdon. Seven people were injured on the east side of town as homes were torn apart. There was $100,000 damage to two schools and total losses near $500,000.

May 21, 1947: In Albemarle County, a tornado moved northeast tearing apart 2 homes and 2 stores at the north edge of Scottsville. Two men were injured in a shed.

Beginning in 1950, Official Weather Service Records begin keeping data on all tornadoes....

June 13, 1951 "Richmond Tornado": A severe tornado (F3) cut through the heart of Richmond (pop. 230,000) on this late afternoon. It left a four mile path of damage that sent a dozen people to the hospital, injured scores more, and left over a hundred homeless. Thirty-five buildings were destroyed and 126 received major damage; a 1000 buildings in all were damaged. Damage estimates were over one million dollars. The tornado was seen tossing a car 30 to 40 feet into the air. Eyewitness accounts were reported in the next day's Richmond Times-Dispatch (Vol. 101, No. 165):

"It came on fast. It sounded to me like an earthquake. I saw rooftops flying through the air. Pieces of tin and trees were falling on South Granby Street. When it hit my house, the back of the house came down. All the houses along here got hit in the back, and they all were half ripped down." - Perl Price, 1835 Rosewood Avenue.

"I had spotted the twister when I was near the Jefferson Hotel. It was a great swirling mass of wind, and I thought at first that there was a huge fire somewhere. There wasn't any cone or funnel, like you expect with a tornado. The wind seemed to swirl and swoop up everything from the edges, carrying leaves and debris in and up. The air seemed to be full of all kinds of objects." - Louis J. Patterson, Richmond Times-Dispatch photographer.

And from the Richmond News Leader came this quote by John L. Walker:

"Four different clouds - all funnel-shaped - were rushing toward the city. Each one had a tail like a kite. Then the four came together in the shape of a huge auger that picked up everything in front of it."

This report suggests that it was a multi-vortex tornado with, at one point, four vortices visible. The strong Petersburg Tornado in 1993 was also a multi-vortex tornado.

August 31, 1952: A F2 tornado, spawned by Hurricane Able, tracked 2 miles hitting Franconia in Fairfax County. One home was unroofed and torn apart and two others were mostly unroofed.

September 30, 1959: While Hurricane Gracie weakened to a tropical storm and crossed the extreme southwest portion of the state, it spawn killer tornadoes in central Virginia. This was the second deadliest tornado day for Virginia history. Three strong F3 tornadoes struck in the Charlottesville area. The first tornado struck Greene county around 4 pm. It tracked two miles hitting a cement block highway department building near Standardsville and unroofing it. Cars were thrown from the road and small buildings were demolished. The St. George Elementary School was destroyed. The grounds Keeper died from injuries received in a shed during the storm. Nine other people were injured. The second tornado struck Albemarle County around 430 pm and tracked 4 miles. It moved east from Mechum River near Crozet to Ivy which is about 6 miles west of Charlottesville. 11 people were killed, 10 of them were in a single building. It was a duplex that had been used as the apple pickers' bunk house. One person was crushed under a chimney of a nearby home. Four people were injured. The third tornado tracked six and a half miles on the ground through Fluvanna, but fortunately, no one was injured. It badly damaged 14 homes and many were unroofed 3 miles west of Palmyra. A church, two barns and two of the 14 homes were completely destroyed. There was also some damage in Cunningham.

September 10, 1960: Hurricane Donna spawned a F2 tornado that struck and unroofed 3 homes and destroyed 3 barns at the southern tip of Buckingham County.

April 8, 1962: A F2 tornado tracked 9 miles across the southeast part of Norfolk near St. Brides, Hickory, and Fentress. Many buildings were unroofed and some outbuildings were completely destroyed. The roof of one home was hit by a car and destroyed it.

July 12, 1964: Around 2:15 pm in Henry County, a F2 tornado tracked 2 miles unroofing two homes and 2 churches northwest of Martinsville. The roof of one home was thrown 150 yards into a school. Three people were injured. An F2 tornado also struck Pittsylvania County.

November 2, 1966: Three strong tornadoes hit. The first one was around 2 pm, when a F2 tornado struck Brunswick County. At 2:50 pm, a tornado moved 3 miles north through Nottoway County striking a residential section of Blackstone. Homes were unroofed and cars were "piled up in a heap". Another tornado struck Richmond County around 4 pm injuring two people. It touched down briefly destroying a two-story farm house. One of the occupants was carried 200 feet. The roof and freezer were found a half mile away. This storm was rated an F3 but may have reached F4 strength.

July 4, 1967: At 12:55 pm EDT, a F2 tornado touched down 15 miles south of Suffolk and moved 2 miles north destroying 2 small homes. Five people were injured. A home was shifted in the Cypress Chapel area.

March 24, 1969: Two tornadoes struck. At 9:20 pm in Halifax County, a F3 tornado hit 7 miles southeast of South Boston totally destroying a six room farm house and scattering it over several acres. A four year old girl asleep inside was killed and her body was found 75 yards from where the house once stood. There was scattered tree damage for 5 miles. A barn, stable, and trailer were also destroyed. This tornado may reached F4 intensity. A second tornado (F2) struck Richmond injuring one person and causing up to a half a million dollars in damages.

November 3, 1971: A tornado hit Portsmouth, Norfolk and moved out over the Chesapeake Bay. Eight businesses and 22 homes were damaged in Portsmouth. In Norfolk, the SCOPE center was damaged as were several stores. Two trailer parks were hit, over half the trailers were demolished, overturned, or unroofed. Eleven people in all were injured and damages were in the millions.

April 1, 1973: It was a little past 3 p.m. when a strong tornado (F3) struck a populated area of Northern Virginia. It touched down in Prince William County and traveled 15 miles northeast through Fairfax and into Falls Church. Extensive damage occurred along a six mile stretch in Fairfax. A high school, two shopping centers, an apartment complex, and 226 homes were damaged. Only 37 people were injured. It could have been much worse. It was Sunday and "Blue Laws" were still in effect. The normally busy shopping center which had extensive damage was closed and school was not in session. Damage totaled $14 million (1973 dollars).

April 4, 1974 "Super Outbreak": It was before sunrise when the severe thunderstorms rolled into southwest Virginia. The storms were part of