WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)

Tornadoes hit near Greensburg, Pennsylvania (again)

By Jesse Ferrell
6/28/2018, 8:03:49 PM

UPDATE: The NWS in Pittsburgh says: "Two EF0 tornadoes with wind of 70 to 80 mph occurred. One was documented from near Brinker Road to near Cannonball Court in Mount Pleasant Township. The second occurred near Whitfield and Henrys Rds in Unity Township."

In 2011, an EF-2 tornado struck Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in March. Last night, a supercell thunderstorm again moved over the area, spawning two tornadoes south of town. Here's a look at the rotational track from radars along with a few photos of the storm:

Rotational Track & Photos of SW PA Tornado 6/28

As of this writing, the NWS has determined that there was, in fact, tornado damage. Below is a compilation of videos, which I go more in-depth with further down in this blog.

The thing that amazed me about the storm last night was that it was a "mothership cloud" with much of the classic supercell thunderstorm features you'd see in the Midwest. It's extremely rare to get those here in Pennsylvania. Our storms are almost always disorganized and weak. These photos show the structure well, a rotating mothership cloud with a wall cloud underneath:

Greensburg, PA Supercell Thunderstorm 6/28

Above: The storm as viewed from Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, by Zach Frailey. Below, a view from Julia Jolly in Latrobe.

Greensburg, PA Storm 6/28

Below: A view of the storm from Bryn Enoch from Bullskin Township.

Greensburg, PA Storm 6/28

This time-lapse video, also by Bryn, is a great example of the storm's structure from the south. Again you'll see a clearly rotating supercell thunderstorm with persistent wall cloud and even possibly a funnel cloud touching down.

DISCLAIMER: There may be some cursing in the videos below, for obvious reasons.

One of the most impressive close-up videos came from Kimberly Haught filmed the funnel cloud rapidly rotating and trying to drop down at a golf course in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, east of Pleasant Unity:

This video by Eric Carroll (Amburst-Brinkerton Road, I presume) was taken a little farther north:

In this video by Colby Grasmick, clear rotation of the scud indicates the tornado still trying to touch down, and this is beyond the damage path in Pleasant Unity, close to the Latrobe airport.

In this video by Alexis Mellinger (which was broadcast live on Facebook!) in Pleasant Unity, Pennsylvania you can see that there is some weak rotation in the rapidly rising scud, and I'm not sure if we're seeing the funnel in the clouds but we may be seeing it touch the ground -- there is a white patch that moves from right to left. It could be a rain shaft, but it could be the condensation funnel of the tornado moving across the ground. With weak tornadoes, you often see a funnel cloud, and a condensation or dust swirl on the ground, but not necessarily anything in between.

Video Screen Cap

I believe this video shows that white spot on the ground, and if you watch the debris you can see some rotation. Last but not least, this guy records the funnel cloud rotating overhead, then the condensation funnel on the ground.


I showed the rotational track above but I'll upload some additional radar data later today.


Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, just east of Pittsburgh, is no stranger to tornadoes, with 33 confirmed since 1950. The most recent was an EF-1 east of Greensburg, before that the aforementioned EF-2 in 2011, and since 2000 only one more, an EF-1 in 2006 that started in town and moved north.

Westmoreland County Tornado History

Last night's tornado probably won't cross tracks with 2011 or any others on the map, with the possible exception of the 1976 EF1 that went through New Stanton. (Map via TornadoHistoryProject.Org, with years and green area showing the approximate track of last night's tornado based on the rotational track above).

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WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)