Myths about tornadoes in the Shenandoah Valley

WHSV file video of a tornado formed around Quicksburg in April of 2002
WHSV file video of a tornado formed around Quicksburg in April of 2002(WHSV)
Published: May. 5, 2017 at 6:41 PM EDT
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Tornadoes don't happen in mountains, or the mountains protect us from tornadoes.

If you've lived in or around the Shenandoah Valley for any amount of time, you've probably heard both of those things. But that's a myth!

Most of our weather moves west to east, ultimately interacting with the Appalachain mountains.

Even though the mountains can sometimes limit the strength of storms, tornadoes do happen in mountainous areas.

Some new research on Virginia tornadoes suggests that as a tornado travels downhill, the vortex will tighten and stretch, thus rotating faster, and increase the strength. Here are just a few local examples.

Most recently, an impressive 33-mile long tornado traveled from Fulks Run, up and down across ridges, into Shenandoah County.

In April of 2002, a tornado (which you can see in the video above) formed around Quicksburg, traveled over the interstate, up one ridge of Massanutten Mountain, and dissipated traveling up the second. Eventually, it went on to create a violent tornado in Maryland. This is the only photo or footage we have of an area tornado.

And in July of 1959, a tornado traveled through Waynesboro up and across Skyline Drive at elevations of 3000 feet.

A tornado has even been recorded at over 10,000 feet, in July of 2004, in Sequoya National Park.

So because tornadoes do happen in mountainous areas, it's false to think that they can't happen here.

While it's not as frequent as other areas of the country, or even in other areas of Virginia, they can happen.

So what can you do?

Be prepared, have a plan. And pay attention to storm warnings. Do you have a safe place to go to if a tornado warning is issued for your area?