SPC Stats

Path length: 52.8 miles

Width:  880 yards

Fatalities:  4

Injuries:  17

Rating:  F4

County:  Van Wert, Paulding, Putnam, Defiance, Henry

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 40.78 / -84.77      End: 41.30 / -84.00

Corrected Coordinates based on text in NCDC narratives:

Start: 40.785877/-84.734074    End: 41.299060/-84.015444.

Veers in Path: 41.072495/-84.341939, and 41.203913/-84.227659.

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

Photo of the Van Wert tornado via NWS Northern Indiana.

The Veterans Day Weekend Tornado Outbreak began on November 9, 2002. We have a summary on one of the 10 tornadoes that occurred that day: Cedar Grove-Terry, TN F2 Tornado – November 9, 2002. The outbreak really ramped up on November 10 with 60+ tornadoes occurring. Per the NOAA Assessment of the event, “The Veterans Day weekend tornado outbreak covered a very large area of the eastern United States and can be described as four distinct areas or episodes of tornadic activity. The fatalities associated with the event occurred over a 25-hour period.” 

The first “episode” occurred on November 9. The weather set-up on November 10 allowed the other three areas of tornadic activity to develop simultaneously. Here is a radar composite extracted from the NOAA Assessment from mid-afternoon of Sunday, November 10, 2002.

The NOAA Assessment states that just before 6pm CST, “there were 15 different supercell thunderstorms in progress at the same time, each one containing a well-defined mesocyclone circulation capable of producing a tornado.”

The map below shows tracks of supercell thunderstorms and preliminary reports of F2 or stronger tornadoes from Sunday afternoon, November 10 through early Monday morning, November 11.

This summary will focus in on the strongest tornado to occur in the Veterans Day Weekend Outbreak. It was the first killer tornado of November 10. This tornado developed in Van Wert County, OH and tracked 52.8 miles. It produced F4 damage in Van Wert County and F3 damage in Paulding and Putnam Counties. It then weakened to an F0 as it traveled through parts of Defiance and Henry Counties.

Per the Storm Data Entry, the tornado developed 4 miles NE of Willshire in Van Wert County. The twister strengthened quickly to an F4, five miles SW of the city of Van Wert near Zook Road. 75-year-old Alfred Germann was killed when his home collapsed. (News Herald, Port Clinton, OH – November 11, 2002).

The tornado moved into the city of Van Wert as an F4. It hit the Twin Cinemas and the Vision Industrial Park. The tornado was about 1/2 mile wide. From Storm Data, “60 persons watching a movie in the cinema, mostly children, took shelter before the tornado hit, with only minor injuries. Vehicles from the parking lot were thrown into the seats where the children had been sitting.”

The photos shown below are all of the Twin Cinemas, via the NWS Summary.

An aerial view of Twin Cinemas, via NWS Northern Indiana.
Looking from the back row in the destroyed theater. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A view of the theater from the parking lot. Note that trees in the background were reduced to stubs.
Another view of the destroyed theater, via NWS Northern Indiana.
Another look at the cars that were tossed into the theater. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.

Scott Shaffer, one of the managers of the cinemas, is credited for helping to save lives this day.

Sadly, Nicholas Mollenkopf, 18 was driving by the cinema when the tornado hit. He was thrown from his vehicle and killed. (Info via Storm Data and News Herald, Port Clinton, OH – November 11, 2002).

Per Storm Data, 164 homes were damaged in Van Wert County and 43 totally destroyed. Five businesses in Vision Park were destroyed.

Destruction in Van Wert, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A car that was punctured by a telephone pole. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
Trees that were stripped and even partially debarked. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A home that was leveled. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A home that was leveled, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A home that lost most of its roof and a top story wall, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A large home that was unroofed, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A car that was thrown and mangled. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
Damage at Vision Park, in Van Wert. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A home southwest of Van Wert that was swept away. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A farm that was destroyed, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
Homes destroyed in Van Wert, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
An aerial view of Vision Park in Van Wert, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A metal building that was totally destroyed. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A factory that was flattened. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
Another view of a flattened factory, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A high-tension metal truss tower that was pushed to the ground. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
Cycloidal markings left by suction vortices, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.

The tornado moved from Van Wert into Paulding County. Ground and aerial surveys found F3 damage along the entire nine mile path in Paulding County. Per Storm Data, only one structure remained standing in the town of Roselms. This is an unincorporated community in SW Washington Township. In an online article from the Toledo Blade from November 11, 2002, it states, “Sweeping down State Rt. 114, the storm flattened the Washington Township hall and Roselms Church in Roselms.” I found this clip:

I had a hard time finding more detailed information for Roselms but after doing more digging, I found an archive of the Paulding County Progress on the Online Newspaper Archive for the Paulding County Carnegie Library.  It had much more information on what happened in this area on November 10, 2002.  From the November 13, 2002 edition:

  • Five persons injured.
  • More than a dozen families left homeless.
  • 30+ homes destroyed/damaged.
  • A church was leveled and another was damaged.
  • 40+ barns and farm structures were destroyed/damaged.
  • The township house was leveled.
A mobile home that was swept off its foundation. The frame of the trailer can be seen wrapped around a tree in the background. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A house that was destroyed. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A house that was destroyed. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A garage that was ripped apart. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.

The tornado maintained F3 strength as it moved out of Paulding into Putnam County. Near Continental, a mobile home was hit killing husband and wife, Denver and Cretie Branham. (The Cincinnati Enquirer, November 12, 2002). 

Photo of the tornado near Continental, via NWS Northern Indiana.
A home that was damage. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
An interior view a house that was unroofed. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A trailer that was rolled over, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
A car that was tossed, photo via NWS Northern Indiana.
Debris caught in a culvert. Photo via NWS Northern Indiana.

The tornado finished its track as an F0 in Defiance and Henry Counties. There was damage to a few homes, trees and outbuildings. The tornado had a skipping path through these counties. 

Radar Imagery via NWS Northern Indiana

Photos via Getty Images

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Videos

Newspaper Clippings

Van Wert County

Paulding County

Putnam County

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Note:  There are some images/videos in our summaries that were licensed to us to be used only on this website. If you would like to use an image/video in your project or blog, please contact us and we will grant permission if possible.

Newspaper clips are embedded via newspapers.com.  Please see their terms and conditions.


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