June 23

This Day in History

Disaster

Jun 23, 1944:

Tornadoes hit West Virginia and Pennsylvania

A spate of tornadoes across West Virginia and Pennsylvania kills more than 150 people on this day in 1944. Most of the twisters were classified as F3, but the most deadly one was an F4 on the Fujita scale, meaning it was a devastating tornado, with winds in excess of 207 mph.

It was a very hot afternoon when atmospheric conditions suddenly changed and the tornadoes began in Maryland. At about 5:30 p.m., an F3 tornado (with winds between 158 and 206 mph) struck in western Pennsylvania and killed two people. Forty-five minutes later, a very large twister began in West Virginia, moved into Pennsylvania, and then tracked back to West Virginia. By the time this F4 tornado ended, it had killed 151 people and leveled hundreds of homes.

Another tornado that afternoon struck at a YMCA camp in Washington, Pennsylvania. A letter written by a camper was later found 100 miles away. Coal-mining towns in the area were also hit hard on June 23. There were some reports that a couple of tornadoes actually crossed the Appalachian mountain range, going up one side and coming down the other.

This remarkable series of twisters finally ended at 10 p.m., when the last one hit in Tucker County, West Virginia. In all, the storms caused the destruction of thousands of structures and millions of dollars in damages.

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