SPC Stats

Path length: 0.8 miles

Width:  200 yards

Fatalities:  11

Injuries:  4

Rating:  F3

County:  Albermarle

Today we look at a tornado produced by the remnants of Hurricane Gracie on September 30, 1959.  Per an overview from the WPC, Gracie became a hurricane on September 22 near the Bahamas.  It tracked into the southern coast of SC as a major hurricane late in the morning of the 30th.

Per the Tornado Project Online, Gracie produced a total of 7 tornadoes. Four occurred on September 30.  There was an estimated F1 in Horry Corry, SC and 3 estimated F3 tornadoes in Virginia.  This summary looks at one of those devastating F3s that occurred in Albermarle County, VA.

The SPC database and Storm Data entry have a path of less than one mile on this tornado.  Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes as a 4 mile path. I have based my map below on that path length and on his entry on how the tornado tracked.  The official SPC coordinates only have a beginning point and no end.

Per Grazulis, the tornado moved eastward from the Mechums River near Crozet to Ivy, 6 miles West of Charlottesville.  Two houses were destroyed at Crozet.  In Ivy, a devastating event occurred a duplex that was used as the apple pickers’ bunk house.  10 members of the Ervin Morris family died at this location.  The victims ages ranged from 7 months to 48 years old.  Here is a newspaper clip from the Daily Press in Newport News, VA of the funeral:

Another person died at a nearby house.  Mrs. Lilly Bruce was killed when a chimney fell on her.  Her husband and son survived.

I found a newspaper clip from October 23, 1959 from the Plain Speaker out of Hazleton, PA that stated that a paid-up bank note was carried from Mechums River, VA to near Lacy Springs, a good 50 miles away!

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

Based this map on Thomas Grazulis entry in Significant Tornadoes.  Moved East from the Mechums River near Crozet to Ivy, 6 miles West of Charlottesville.  Added a USGS overlay which shows the Mechums River more clearly east of Crozet.    

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the September 1959 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 0.8 mile path length.
  • Storm Data lists path length of 3/4 mile.
  • Grazulis has a 4 mile path length.

Width:

  • Grazulis has a width of 500 yards.
  • Remaning sources have a 200 yard width.

Injury count:

  • Grazulis lists 9 injuries.
  • Remaining sources have 4 injuries.

      Sources:

      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      September 1959 Storm Data Publication

      WPC Overview of Hurricane Gracie

      Tornado Project Online

      newspapers.com

      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1023.

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