Severe Weather Outbreak - November 10, 2002
Severe thunderstorms erupted ahead of a strong
cold front on Sunday, November 10, 2002 and affected the eastern half
of the Midwest. This late fall outbreak was the worst of the year, including
the spring season, and resulted in 36 fatalities and 200
injuries in five states. In the Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky
were affected, with the strongest Midwest storms
in Indiana and Ohio. Most of the fatalities with this outbreak occurred in
Tennesssee and Alabama, with five in Ohio, and one each
in Pennsylvania and Mississippi.
The surface weather map at 9:00 a.m. CST placed a strong
low pressure center in southern Wisconsin with a trailing cold front
through Illinois, Missouri, and into Oklahoma (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The surface weather map for 9:00
a.m. CST November 10, 2002, with satellite and radar images superimposed.
Images courtesy of weather.unisys.com.
showers and thundershowers were occurring at that time with the front. On
Saturday night temperatures remained in the 50s and 60s in the region
east and south of the front. The 850 mb for 12Z (7:00 a.m. CST)
showed warm air nosing into the lower Midwest, and the axis of an area
of Lifted Indices of -4 to -6, indicating unstable air, extended from
southern Missouri to northeastern Illinois (Figure 2). The Storm
Prediction Center outlook for the day included a High risk of severe
weather, including the potential for large tornadoes in the Ohio and
Figure 2. Map showing relative humidity between
850-500 mb and Lifted Index values (dotted lines). Dark shaded area indicate
an LI of <0.
Click on image below for 10 hour
Strong thunderstorms began erupting in the warm, moist
air across southeast Illinois during the late morning of November 10. Thunderstorms
continued to intensify through the early afternoon as the front advanced
through Illinois and into Indiana. By 12 noon CST a line of storms had
organized from southeastern Missouri through northern Indiana (Figure
Figure 3. Base reflectivity display for 12
noon CST on November 10.
For a description of the tornadoes in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio,
inclduing a photo of the tornado near Continental, OH, click here to go the tornado
web page of the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office.
Tornado tracks of some of the Ohio storms can be found here on the
web site of the Cleveland, OH office of the National Weather Service.
The severe weather covered an area from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes.
Preliminary figures include 68 tornado reports, 281 reports of high winds, and
163 report of hail. Click on the map below to see a larger image.
a result of the eastern U.S. tornado outbreak, 36 people were killed,
more than 200 people were injured, several hundred homes and businesses
were destroyed or severely damaged, and many more homes and buildings
were partially damaged. Property losses are conservatively
estimated to be several hundred million dollars in the affected areas. The
November 10 outbreak was the largest and most deadly in the U.S.
since 70 tornadoes killed 44 people in Oklahoma and Kansas in May
1999. Improved lead times in tornado warnings led to
a reduction in casualties, given the number and violence of the tornadoes. The
previous record for November tornado deaths in the U.S. was 31, set in
In the Midwest, tornadoes and other damaging winds were reported in Illinois,
Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Ohio suffered the only fatalities in
the Midwest region, with five of the 35 total deaths attributed to the
deadly F4 tornado visited Van Wert County in Ohio, and destroyed 26 homes
and severely damaging another 12. Two people were killed in Van Wert,
and more than 20 people were injured. The major local industrial park was
also devastated, leaving as many as 500 people unemployed following the
storm. Three others died in northwestern Ohio: an F2 tornado overturned
a mobile home in Putnam County, killing two; while an F3 tornado destroyed
a home in Seneca County, killing one.
At least another 8 tornadoes impacted northern Ohio. Portions of
Ottawa County along Lake Erie were devastated by an F2 tornado, especially
in the town of Port Clinton. More than 30 homes were destroyed, and about
100 damaged in the county. A cluster of 5 tornadoes impacted counties around
Cuyahoga County Solon Middle School was destroyed when the roof of the
building was ripped from the steel support girders and flung down. Many
more homes were damaged and destroyed. The total housing losses reported
by the Red Cross in the 17 impacted counties in Ohio included 152 homes
destroyed, 156 homes with major damage, and 388 homes with minor damage.
The most compelling story of survival was the action taken by a theater
manager in the town of Van Wert to institute a previously developed tornado
plan and evacuate the moviegoers to a sheltered corridor and rest room
area lined with cinder blocks. More than 60 people, many of them
children, were saved from severe injury or death when the theater proper
was swept away and several automobiles dropped into the front rows of seats. Van
Wert was one of four FEMA Storm Ready counties in Ohio where prior preparations
safeguarded many people. Officials
of Xenia, OH, famously visited by several tornadoes in the past, went to
Van Wert to assist the local government in organizing their rescue and
recovery efforts. Governor
Taft visited many of the affected areas on the 12th, and requested a federal
Two tornadoes were confirmed in northwestern Indiana, an F1 affecting Hartford
City and an F3 in rural Adams County. There were 14 injuries, but
no deaths in these storms. In Kentucky, there were two tornadoes,
but intense straight-line winds caused the most damage across the state
and injured at least a dozen people in Gallatin County, where trailers
were blown over and house damage took place. Finally,
the two tornadoes in southern Illinois in Jackson and Franklin Counties
were quite weak and did little damage over rural paths.