National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Severe weather preparedness takes awareness, planning and then action.  You can't effectively take action in an imminent hazardous weather event unless you have some sort of plan in place, and you can't develop a robust hazardous weather plan unless you understand the threats you may face.  

Here's where history can help us...

As the Churchill quote directs, we can look back at our history and get a good understanding of the weather threats we should be prepared for.  Weather records in our region date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s and that history is full of floods, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and crippling winter storms.  The resources below are meant to help document and quantify some of these threats in order to help inform the planning stage of severe weather preparedness.

 

Flash Flood Climatology

Flash Flooding is a frequent cause of damage and loss of life in our region.  No county is immune.  While flash flooding is most frequent during the afternoon and evening hours during the summer months, it can happen in any month of the year and any hour of the day.  The following information and statistics were gathered from the NOAA Storm Data database for the 49 counties in the NWS Charleston, WV County Warning Area.

 

 
 

 


 

Flood Fatality History

Flooding is the biggest overall weather threat in our region with numerous floods and flash floods occurring during any given year.  Unfortunately, many people have lost their lives over the years due to flooding in our region.  The following information and statistics were gathered from the flood deaths recorded in the NOAA Storm Data database for the 49 counties in the NWS Charleston, WV County Warning Area.

 

 
 

 

 


 

Precipitation Frequency

The Precipitation Frequency Data Server (PFDS) is a point-and-click interface developed to deliver NOAA Atlas 14 precipitation frequency estimates and associated information. The estimates are based on historical data and assign probabilities to rainfall volumes to estimate the likelihood of a rainfall event, like a 100-year storm, occurring in any given year.

Tornado History

Our region has experienced many tornadoes over the years including several intense and long tracked tornadoes.  Only five of the 49 counties in the NWS Charleston, WV County Warning Area do not have a documented tornado, and tornadoes have likely occurred in those counties but just not been reported. 

  • Tornado Database: View a comprehensive, sortable database of all documented tornadoes that have occurred in the NWS Charleston, WV County Warning Area.  Detailed statistics are available for each tornado including tornado track length, width, strength, deaths and injuries and a narrative of the event, where available.
 
Quick Facts About the Tornado History of Our Region
Total Number  Earliest Recorded  Longest Track Strongest Deadliest
161

May 12, 1886
Meigs County, OH
F4

86 miles
March 2, 2012
Menifee KY, Morgan KY, Lawrence KY, Johnson KY, Wayne WV, Lincoln WV

F5
April 23, 1968
Scioto OH, Lawrence OH, Gallia OH

100 Dead / 381 Injured
June 23, 1944
Marion WV, Harrison WV, Taylor WV, Barbour WV, Randolph WV

 
 

 


 

Severe Thunderstorm Wind Events

The most frequently experienced hazard from severe thunderstorms in our region is damaging thunderstorm winds.  Wind gusts from severe thunderstorms frequently damage trees, resulting in property damage and power outages.  In the most extreme cases, thunderstorm complexes known as "derechos" can produce widespread wind damage and long lasting power outages.  Two worst case thunderstorm wind events are included below:

  • The West Virginia Derecho of 1991 produced a large swath of wind damage from eastern Arkansas northeastward into Pennsylvania with winds exceeding 80 to 100 mph at some points in this region.  West Virginia was hard hit with two people killed, 86 injured and over $16 million in damages.
  • The 2012 Midwest/Ohio Valley Derecho produced widespread wind damage across the Midwest, Ohio Valley and central Appalachians as the complex of thunderstorms produced a large swath of 60 to 80 mph winds.  Over 670,000 customers in West Virginia and over a million customers in Ohio were without power at the peak of the event and in many cases it took over a week for utility companies to restore services.
 
 

 


 

Severe Thunderstorm Hail Events

Severe thunderstorms capable of producing hail are most common in our region during the spring and late summer months.  Most common are hailstones of one inch in diameter or smaller, however hailstones up to the size of softballs have occurred. 

Damage from hail most often occurs to vehicles.  Below are two examples of extreme damage caused by hail events in our region:

  • June 2, 1998- A rotating supercell that formed in southeast Ohio cut a path southeast, up the Kanawha River Valley.  The most damage was from large hail hitting the urban areas, especially in the Kanawha City section of Charleston.  Hundreds of vehicles were dented, including new cars at dealerships.  Roofs, plus west facing siding and windows were also damaged.  One Kanawha City business owner said, "I never saw anything like this before.  I never thought I'd go through this in West Virginia."  Overall, an estimated $6 million in damages occurred with the largest insurance company in the area reporting about 10,000 claims for homes and vehicles combined.
  • April 28, 2016-  ​​​Thunderstorms produced a narrow corridor of golf ball to baseball sized hail in Taylor County.  This produced considerable damage around Grafton with over 800 vehicles damaged with dents, windows cracked, or rear windows smashed out, including dozens of vehicles at a Ford dealership and 8 sheriff vehicles.  The auditorium, gymnasium and greenhouse were damaged at the Grafton High School along with a significant number of windows in the facility.  Overall, around 260 buildings were affected with window, roof or siding damage.  Six campers and six boats were also damaged.  An estimated $3.8 million in damages occurred.

A complete listing of the largest hail reported by county since 1950 can be found

 

 

 


 

Lightning Climatology

This lightning climatology provides imagery through an online GIS-based web browser interface that allows users to access graphics on the climatologically-based frequency and amount of cloud-to-ground lightning for a given geographic area. This product is intended to provide users, including organizers and/or supporters of outdoor events, the aviation community, etc., with a temporal breakdown of cloud-to-ground lightning flashes across a given geographic area.

Heat Extremes

Weather records indicate several dangerous heat waves have occurred across our region.  Some noteable episodes of extreme heat include July 1934, July 1988, and June/July 2012.  Many of the observed record hot temperatures in the map to the left were set during one of those heat waves. 

Snowfall Extremes

Snowstorms, while not frequent, have paralyzed our region for days and caused major hardships on the population.  In fact, the Great Appalachian Storm of November 1950, which is responsible for many of the one-day snowfall records illustrated on this map, persisted for several days and is responsible for the West Virginia state record 3-day snow total of 57.2" from Coeburn Creek in Harrison County.

  • Additional county based snowfall record information can be obtained from the National Centers for Environmental Information Snowfall Extremes webpage.

Historical Cold Snaps

Weather records indicate several dangerous cold snaps have occurred across our region.  These include December 1899, January 1912, January 1985, January 1994 and February 2015.  Many of the observed record cold temperatures in the map to the left were set during one of those cold snaps. 

Top Ten Snowstorms on Record

We have provided detailed information, including snowfall maps and a detailed meteorological analysis of the top 10 snow storms since 1950 for each official climate site in the NWS Charleston, WV County Warning Area. Also included for each station is a composite surface low chart for the top 10 snow storms for that station. Read More...

Snowfall Climatology

The number of days it snows and the amounts of snow varies widely across NWS Charleston’s area of responsibility due to varied terrain and elevation. This study documents and illustrates this variability for several locations across the NWS Charleston area of responsibility.  Read More...

The Impact of Tropical Systems on the NWS Charleston WV County Warning Area

Historical hurricane track data shows a total of twenty-nine tropical systems have passed within the vicinity of the NWS Charleston, WV County Warning Area, but only sixteen were verified through NOAA Storm Data to have significant impacts. Read More...