On February 11, 1887, at least six tornadoes ripped across the state of Pennsylvania during this rare February outbreak.  Since 1950 only six other tornadoes have occurred in the state of PA in February. 

The Weather Bureau’s Monthly Weather Review (MWR) reported 17 tornadoes across Parts of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland this day.  Thomas Grazulis only lists one Ohio tornado and one Indiana Tornado in Significant Tornadoes.  The focus of this Funnel Feature will be on the Pennsylvania Tornadoes. Those are the ones I have done the most research into while working on the Central Pennsylvania Tornado Database.  

The tornadoes were spawned between 11 am and Noon and were probably embedded in a Quasi Linear Convective System (QLCS).  In other words, these were twisters embedded within a squall line.  Unfortunately, one of these tornadoes, the Tyrone Tornado, proved to be deadly, killing 5 Hungarian immigrants. This is an interesting event because details about some of these twisters aren’t available as the newspapers only paid attention to the more significant tornadoes.   

Due to lack of details, three tornadoes cannot be rated, although the Mercer and Tionesta tornadoes were likely Significant (F2 or stronger).  

Neshannock, PA to Mercer PA

Rating: F-Unknown
Path Length: 9 Miles
Path Width: 880 yds
Fatalities: 0
Injuries: 0
County: Mercer

Coordinates based on MWR

Start: 41.213033/-80.398752 End: 41.228911/-80.224350

Per the MWR, this tornado struck at 11 am and moved from Neshannock to Mercer.  It was described as “Very Destructive,” but since no real damage description was given and cannot be found in the newspapers, a rating can’t be applied.

Tionesta, PA

Rating: F-Unknown
Path Length: 6.5 Miles
Path Width: 880 yds
Fatalities: 0
Injuries: 0
County: Forest

Coordinates based on MWR:

Start: 41.487097/-79.484260     End: 41.510816/-79.364145

Per the MWR, this tornado also hit at 1100 AM and was described as “very destructive” and “the worst storm since 1851”.  As with the Mercer County tornado, since no real damage description was given and cannot be found in the newspapers, a rating can’t be applied. The path plotted here is based on Finley’s Pennsylvania Tornadoes 1811-1888.  

Greensburg, PA

Rating: F2 (minimal)
Path Length: 3 Miles
Path Width: Not known
Fatalities: 0
Injuries: 0
County: Westmoreland

Coordinates based on damage reports:

Start: 40.289959/-79.559329     End: 40.321309/-79.518319.

Per the MWR, the tornado occurred around 11:00, although newspapers say it occurred between 10:30 am, and 11:00 am. It was “Very destructive.”  Additional Details from newspapers.

  • The tornado tore part of the roof off the new Lutheran Church.
  • Windows were blown out of the courthouse. 
  • The new jail smokestack was cracked for at least 20 feet from the base, and houses were unroofed. 
  • Trees were blown down, and fences were “carried away.”
  • There were reports of a derrick being blown over at the Sisters of Charity Farm (on the NW edge of town near present-day Seton Hill University). Straight-line winds likely caused this damage. 

The path plotted here is just a best guess, and it may have been longer.

Tyrone, PA

Rating: F2 (minimal)
Path Length: 6 Miles
Path Width: Not known
Fatalities: 5
Injuries: 55
County: Blair

Coordinates from NWS State College Tornado Database:

Start: 40.65 / -78.29     End: 40.70 / -78.19

Per the MWR, the tornado was “Very Destructive.”

Additional Details from the NWS State College Tornado Database:  

  • A shanty, housing 60 Hungarians, was crushed under a fallen tree; five people were killed. 
  • The roofs were torn off several buildings at a Tannery, including the roof of the main building. 
  • A smokestack was blown over at the Electric Light Company. 
  • The path width was not known.  The tornado was described as a “narrow funnel” on Finley’s list of Pennsylvania Tornadoes 1811-1888, and that it occurred at noon.

Huntingdon, PA

Rating: F2 
Path Length: 6 Miles
Path Width: Not known
Fatalities: 0
Injuries: 1
County: Huntingdon

Coordinates based on NWS State College Tornado Database:

Start: 40.48 / -78.07      End: 40.50 / -77.96

Per the MWR: One large distillery, one large factory, and several houses were destroyed.  It was noted as a “narrow funnel.”

Additional details from the NWS State College Tornado Database: 

  • Fences, outbuildings, and trees were blown down. 
  • Reverend R. P. Barry of the Baptist Church was struck by a fallen tree and injured. 
  • The smokestack and roof of the Grubes Distiller were blown down. 
  • The tornado struck at noon.

Loganton, PA

Rating: F-Unknown 
Path Length: 2 Miles
Path Width: Not known
Fatalities: 0
Injuries: 0
County: Clinton

Coordinates from NWS State College Tornado Database:

Start: 41.02 / -77.33     End: 41.03 / -77.29

John Finley listed this tornado on his list of Pennsylvania tornadoes 1811-1888, and the path plotted here was based on his map.  Finley was an early tornado researcher for the Weather Bureau.  The tornado was described as an “inverted cone.”  No other details are available.

Newspaper Clippings

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