Tracking Twisters: A WTOL11 investigation

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - A significant tornado touches down in northwest Ohio or southeast Michigan about once every 10 years.

It's been almost two years since Lake Township and Millbury were devastated by an EF-4 tornado. So does that mean it will be another 8 years before we see another tornado outbreak? Toledo's certified most accurate weather team examined the past 50 years of tornado data to find out.

First, most violent tornadoes do not strike alone. Instead, the data shows twisters come in pairs or as part of a bigger outbreak, no matter the month or season.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 550 tornadoes have touched down in the past five decades, leaving no county in Northwest Ohio or Southeast Michigan untouched.

From the Palm Sunday outbreaks of 1965 and 1974 that did extensive damage in Toledo and Monroe County, to the record setting mid-summer tornadoes in 1992 that destroyed parts of the Anthony Wayne High School and crossed the Maumee River into Perrysburg.

November twisters wrecked havoc across Van Wert, Tiffin and Port Clinton in 2002.

In most recent memory June 2010; the strongest storm hit Lake Township, but tornadoes also touched down in Fulton County over Oak Openings and near Cabalas in Dundee Michigan.

Another significant finding, when data from weaker tornadoes is removed, there is a distinct direction strong tornadoes travel: from southwest to northeast. This happens to be the case not only locally but the entire country. Storms and their tornadoes often ignore any valleys, mountains, rivers or lakes to follow this path.

But one very interesting addition came up when looking over the tracks. Several tornadoes also dove southeast; a move known to meteorologists as a "right hand turn" because of the way a storm appears to suddenly turn right from an otherwise straight path.

Using this information, from over 500 past tornadoes, we will be better prepared to warn communities and neighborhoods, farther in advance the next time an outbreak occurs.

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