On October 14, 1984, four tornadoes occurred. All of them in the State of Virginia. And all four are a bit “controversial.” In Storm data, they have different ratings in a map provided in the “outstanding storms” section, and further down in the summary they are listed as a different rating, the official ratings. Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes has assigned different ratings as well. So, in today’s summary, I’m going to delve into this and layout the discrepancies and see what is going with these four tornadoes.
Officially two F2 tornadoes occurred and two F3 tornadoes occurred. The top map above shows the path the tornadoes took, and their ratings per the SPC, however, it appears that these paths and ratings are not accurate.
Brunswick County: “Edgerton Tornado”
Official Rating: F3
Time: 7:50 AM
Path Length: 12 miles
Path Width: 800 yds.
Per Storm Data: The tornado first touched down about five miles east-northeast of Lawrenceville and moved northeast almost to the County line. 12 to 15 houses were damaged and numerous trees and utility lines were down.
Additional details from Grazulis: Moved northeast from five miles east-northeast of Lawrenceville to the County Line, near Callaville. 12-15 houses were damaged or unroofed. He rated the tornado F2.
It seems that Grazulis’ rating of F2 is appropriate for the tornado. And based on this, the tornado only had a 7-mile path length, not 12.
Charles City County: “Claremont Tornado”
Official Rating: F3
Time: 8:05 AM
Path Length: 5 miles
Path Width: 35 yards.
Per Storm Data: The tornado struck the Sandy Point Section of Charles City County before moving northeast. Numerous trees were downed, 12 to 15 homes damaged, and power and telephone lines were down.
The map in Storm Data by Roy Britt shows this moving through Surry, Charles City and James City Counties. This is echoed by Grazulis. Grazulis notes this tornado event occurred at 7:30 am and has a rating of F2. Roy Britt has the rating at F3 on his map. Storm Data classified the damage in Surry and James City counties as thunderstorm winds. They also noted that two barns and a shed were destroyed east of Claremont and 10 to 15 campers were damaged or destroyed in James City County near the Chickahominy River. One 32 Foot trailer was rolled 50 feet.
Additional Details from Grazulis: Moved northeast unroofing a home and overturning a trailer near Claremont, before crossing the James River. A dozen homes were damaged in Charles City County. Minimal F2.
Additional detail from the Daily Press newspaper from New Port News: The NWS found no evidence of a tornado.
So, what happened here? We may never know what exactly happened, but it seems as though a family of tornadoes and downbursts/microbursts moved from near Claremont into James City County. The damage produced was NOT F3. And the F2 rating may even be too high. As seen in the picture below, the unroofed house was a small cottage, and the trailer was fairly intact after being overturned. This looked like F1 damage to me. It is not clear when or why the Charles City County, segment, was classified as a tornado when the NWS stated in the newspaper that there was no evidence of a tornado. And the path length was more like 13 miles, than the 5 miles listed by the SPC and in the Storm Data.
Sussex and Prince George County: “Carson Tornado”
Official Rating: F2
Time: 8:20 AM
Path Length: 15 miles
Path Width: 450 yds
Per Storm Data: The tornado touched down near the Sussex-Prince George County line, just east of Carson, about 35 miles southeast of Richmond. The storm moved northeast for 15-18 miles. A mobile home and a barn were destroyed. A large oak tree with a diameter of 3.5 feet was picked up and blown across a one-story residence with five people inside. No one was injured but one person had to dig himself out from the rubble.
The map provided by Roy Britt has this listed as an F3 and shows a different path. This is echoed by Grazulis. Grazulis states this tornado occurred 8:05 AM.
Additional details from Grazulis: Moved northeast from five miles northeast of the point of where the previous tornado ended (this would’ve been the first tornado that I have dubbed the “Edgerton Tornado.”) The funnel moved northeast almost on the Sussex County line, crossing Highway 50 about Six miles west of Stony Creek. In that area, two homes were completely destroyed. Continuing to the northeast, barns and a trailer were destroyed, and trees were uprooted. The tornado crossed I-95.
The tornado moved through Sussex, Dinwiddie, and Prince George Counties, not just Sussex and Prince George Counties as Storm Data presents. Grazulis and Storm Data do list one injury, though they both say no one was injured by the tree getting flung onto the house. This injury must have occurred elsewhere.
Grazulis’ F3 rating seems applicable. Damage photos provided in storm data shows definite F3 damage to homes that were destroyed.
Dinwiddie and Prince George County: “Hopewell Tornado”
Official Rating: F2
Time: 8:20 AM
Path Length: 2 miles
Path Width: 100 yds.
Per Storm Data: The tornado appears to have first touched down in Northern Dinwiddie County before moving northeast across Hopewell to the James River. The tornado was a funnel cloud for much of its lifetime. An outdoor shelter was ripped apart of the west side of the city of Hopewell. The tornado picked up pieces of metal from the Allied Chemical Plant and carried them through the area.
Additional detail from the News-Leader newspaper from Staunton Virginia: The tornado passed over the Hopewell News, the ceiling was “sucked” from the entry of the building.
Roy Britt’s map shows this as an F2. However, Grazulis does not list this in Significant Tornadoes. I agree with Grazulis in not listing this as Significant. The damage described in Storm Data is not F2 damage.
These are not the only tornadoes that are like this. If you’re a regular reader of tornadotalk.com, you see that Jen is sorting through many inaccuracies and discrepancies. These errors are why I made my own Pennsylvania Tornado Database, to try to have accurate tornado information. Being blunt most of the coordinates for tornadoes before 1993 and many between 1993 and 2007 are not correct. And many of the tornadoes are either over-rated or under-rated. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to find accurate information, but the “official” stats aren’t right. But it’s what keeps me going, and doing what I do, and I started branching out and working on “fixing” the tornadoes from other states, too.
Nick Wilkes Bio: Nick lives in Altoona PA. He is a Skywarn Spotter for the NWS State College. In 2015 he helped start the Penn State Altoona Meteorology Club and was a Penn State Meteorology Major. He took some time off from school, and in August 2017 went back to California University of Pennsylvania to further his education. He is secretary of the CalU Meteorology Club for the 2018/2019 school year. When Nick was 2 years old he saw the tornado in the Wizard of Oz and immediately became fascinated with tornadoes. He enjoys reading about tornadoes, whether its tornadotalk.com, articles on the AMS website, and the damage surveys, he checks the NWS Damage Assessment Toolkit on a daily basis to see if any damage surveys have been posted on there. After seeing the many errors in the tornado database, he started his own database of tornadoes in Pennsylvania and has attempted to document every tornado in Pennsylvania since the first known tornado in 1724. His goal is to work for the NWS after school.