14 tornadoes become most on record in May for NWS Pittsburgh, surpassing 1985 tornado outbreak

PITTSBURGH — The recent tornadoes in or near western Pennsylvania are now the most on record by the National Weather Service Pittsburgh in May.

According to NWS Pittsburgh, there have been 14 confirmed tornadoes this month in its county warning area. That surpasses the 11 tornadoes from the 1985 outbreak for the most on record in May.

“This isn’t a record we want to break, but we’re glad they weren’t as strong,” the NWS said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

During the 1985 tornado outbreak, 43 tornadoes tore through Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Canada, leaving a path of death and destruction that still ranks as one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. Of those tornadoes, 23 touched down in Pennsylvania, 11 of which were in the NWS Pittsburgh region. It’s still the largest single-day tornado outbreak in Pennsylvania history.

Eighty-nine people lost their lives, 75 of those were in the Keystone State. There were more than a thousand injuries and $600 million in damage.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >>> May 31, 1985: Tornadoes ravage state, killing 75 people

Throughout the last several weeks, severe storms have produced tornadoes that touched down in the Pittsburgh region, including an EF-2 tornado in Washington County, a high-end EF-2 tornado in West Virginia near the border with Pennsylvania and the first tornado within the Pittsburgh city limits since 1998. Many of the tornadoes were on the stronger side for this region.

During the most recent round of storms on May 17, an NWS official said the tornadoes were unexpected.

“Today was not a day that tornadoes really should’ve been expected,” Matthew Kramar with the NWS said. “None of these storms was producing rotation on the radar that was on a scale that would warrant a tornado warning under normal circumstances.”

Significant damage has been reported from these 14 tornadoes. There have only been minor injuries.

On average, Pennsylvania averages six tornadoes a year. The state’s peak tornado season is in June.

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