More Than Double the Average Tornadoes Hit Western Pennsylvania in 2024, Meteorologists Report

More Than Double the Average “Tornadoes” Hit Western Pennsylvania in 2024, Meteorologists Report

Meteorologists report that Western Pennsylvania has already experienced a dozen tornadoes this year, more than doubling the usual average.

Seven of those were confirmed in May alone, according to Shannon Hefferan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township.

The last time Western Pennsylvania witnessed such a huge number of tornadoes was in May 1985. There were eleven that month.

Three tornadoes were confirmed on Saturday: Finleyville in Washington County, the New Salem region in Fayette County, and Fike Run in Fayette County, according to the National Weather Service.

Hefferan stated that the twisters in Fayette County originated from the same circulation. She said debris could be spotted up to 3,000 feet in the air on radar Saturday.

“It has been a very active season,” Hefferan added. “And we’re not even in the peak season.”

According to Hefferan, tornado activity is highest in June. Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and Northern West Virginia are among the areas covered by the National Weather Service’s regional office.

This week, however, appears to be tranquil, according to Hefferan, as there is now no threat of severe weather.

The weather has been warm and damp, which can lead to tornadoes, she explained.

Ashley Dougherty, a meteorologist with WTAE, said it’s unusual to have such an early start to tornado season.

“But with such a mild winter and warming up much earlier, it’s not too shocking,” she continued. “The severe weather season started a month early, so it’s kind of a wait-and-see (period) to see what our June will be like.”

Dougherty cited La Niña, a global climate pattern that can predict catastrophic weather.

However, other variables must also be present, according to Hefferan, such as moisture at the surface, cold air aloft, directional winds, high vertical winds, an unstable environment, and others.

“High vertical winds help fuel rotating thunderstorms,” Hefferan explained.

When the three tornadoes struck on Saturday, she stated that they had a “lower probability” of occurring.

“We try our best to forecast, but we use the warnings to get the notice out,” Hefferan stated. “Right now, it’s a more active season — everybody just needs to be more aware of what’s going on in the weather.”

Tornadoes can strike any state, including Pennsylvania, even if it is not a tornado hub, she said.

“Tornado Alley is an area of the United States with a high potential for tornado development,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski explained. “This area encompasses much of northern Texas northward through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and parts of Louisiana, Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Colorado.”

When storms become severe, Hefferan recommends watching social media, TV, and alerts, as well as knowing where to seek cover in the event of a tornado.

“If you’re in the path of it, you want to take shelter immediately,” Hefferan stated.

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