NWS: Multiple lifts, touch downs during Kanawha County tornado

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The EF1 tornado that covered 11 miles largely in Kanawha County on a path that neared Downtown Charleston at the Kanawha River Monday evening “hopscotched” its way through areas in and south of Charleston.

“This was a tornado where there were multiple instances of where it lifted briefly and then it was on the ground again,” explained Nick Webb, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“It wasn’t a continuous path.” 

The starting point for the tornado, with winds of around 90 mph, was in Lincoln County, northeast of Sod.

From there, the tornado quickly crossed into Kanawha County near Alum Creek

“The overall speed of the line as it was coming through was about 50 miles per hour,” Webb said.

“It was a general southwest to northeast path but, at the very end, as you get close to the Kanawha River, we had some damage points bending more off to the east.”

Survey teams were revisiting those sites and others on Wednesday before the release of a detailed map of the storm track along with delineations in the storm zone for tornadic versus non-tornadic wind activity like those from outflow boundaries, a gust front, or downbursts.

“In addition to the tornadic damage that was found, there was a lot of damage that was also observed that was non-tornadic in nature,” Webb said.

For example, damage at Berry Hills Country Club and just east of Corridor G in the southwest of the storm area was due to non-tornadic activity, according to Webb.

It was a downburst that caused damage south of Kanawha County’s Sissonville, in the Wallace area, out of a storm system that hit right after 4 p.m. on Monday.

While teams investigating the tornado were able to easily access the more populated points along the path to assess damage on Tuesday, Webb said more rural sections were not surveyed.

For that reason, he could not estimate how many times the tornado touched down and lifted again on its route.

He saw several such instances when he scoped out damage from the top of the NWS radar equipment on Tuesday, offering a 360-degree view, as part of the damage assessment work.

A day earlier, Webb was working on a Monday that started with an overall threat for damaging winds.

By late afternoon, a convective line moving in from the southwest was showing some signs of rotation along the “kink” of the line, according to Webb.

“It formed from what we call a quasi-linear convective line, essentially it’s just a line of storms that can produce damaging winds and, sometimes, you can get little circulations that develop along that line,” he explained.

Those circulations soon prompted the Tornado Warning that went out for northwest Lincoln County and much of Kanawha County from the National Weather Service’s Charleston location, a site located yards from the tornado’s path.

“For these types of setups, these spinups can occur very quickly along the leading edges of these convective lines as they move through and that’s exactly what happened here.”

The Charleston area last saw EF1 tornadic activity in 1998, the National Weather Service reported.

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