The Storm Prediction reports four tornadoes on October 14, 1986. All of them are in Virginia, and all of them are a bit “controversial.” Depending on the source you get a different rating. The SPC/NCDC/Storm Data have the same rating on the tornadoes. A map provided in Storm Data (separate from the summaries part) has different ratings. Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes has different ratings on all of these tornadoes as well. So, in today’s summary, we’re going to delve into this and layout the discrepancies and see what is going on with these four tornadoes.

Per the SPC, two tornadoes were rated F2, and two were rated F3. Thomas Grazulis has two F2 tornadoes and one F3 tornado. 

Map showing the paths of the four tornadoes.
Map in “Outstanding Storms” Section

Brunswick County: "Edgerton Tornado"

Official Rating: F3
Time: 7:50 AM
Path Length: 12 miles
Path Width: 800 yards

Per Storm Data: The tornado began about five miles east-northeast of Lawrenceville and moved northeast almost to the county line. 12 to 15 houses were damaged and numerous trees and utility lines were down.

Additional details from Grazulis: Moved northeast from five miles east-northeast of Lawrenceville to the county line, near Callaville. 12-15 houses were damaged or unroofed. He rated the tornado F2.

It seems that Grazulis’ rating of F2 is appropriate for the tornado.  And based on this, the tornado only had a 7-mile path length, not 12.

SPC Start: 36.78 / -77.77         End: 36.9 / -77.67

Corrected Coordinates based on the description in Significant Tornadoes.

Start:  36.779454/-77.772292        End: 36.829783/-77.663562

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

Image Via Storm Data

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the October 1986 Storm Data Publication (SDP) and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have a 12 mile path.
  • Grazulis has a 7 mile path.

Rating:

  • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have an F3 rating.
  • Grazulis has an F2 rating.

    Charles City County: "Claremont Tornado"

    Official Rating: F3
    Time: 8:05 AM
    Path Length: 5 miles
    Path Width: 35 yards

    Per Storm Data: The tornado struck the Sandy Point Section of Charles City County before moving northeast. Numerous trees were downed, 12 to 15 homes were damaged, and power and telephone lines were down.

    The map in Storm Data by Roy Britt shows this moving through Surry, Charles City, and James City Counties. This is echoed by Grazulis. Grazulis notes this tornado event occurred at 7:30 am and has a rating of F2. Roy Britt has the rating at F3 on his map.  Storm Data classified the damage in Surry and James City counties as thunderstorm winds. They also noted that two barns and a shed were destroyed east of Claremont and 10 to 15 campers were damaged or destroyed in James City County near the Chickahominy River. One 32 Foot trailer was rolled 50 feet.

    Additional Details from Grazulis: Moved northeast unroofing a home and overturning a trailer near Claremont, before crossing the James River. A dozen homes were damaged in Charles City County. Minimal F2.

    Additional detail from the Daily Press newspaper from New Port News: The NWS found no evidence of a tornado.

    SPC Start: 36.97 / -77.37      End: 37.12 / -77.2

    Corrected Coordinates based on the description in Significant Tornadoes:

    Start: 36.891850/-77.558868        End: 37.073671/-77.324044

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

    So, what happened here? We may never know what exactly happened, but it seems as though a family of tornadoes and downbursts/microbursts moved from near Claremont into James City County. The damage produced was NOT F3. And the F2 rating may even be too high. As seen in the picture below, the unroofed house was a small cottage, and the trailer was fairly intact after being overturned. This looked like F1 damage to me. It is not clear when or why the Charles City County segment was classified as a tornado when the NWS stated in the newspaper that there was no evidence of a tornado. When you plot the damage path length was 13 miles more than double the 5 miles listed by the SPC and in the Storm Data.

    Image via Storm Data

    Discrepancies:

    We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the October 1986 Storm Data Publication (SDP) and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

    Path Length:

    • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have a 5 mile path.
    • Grazulis has an 8 mile path.
    • When you plot the damage path you actually get a 13.5 mile path.

    Width:

    • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have a 33 yard width.
    • Grazulis has a 35 yard width.

    Rating:

    • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have an F3 rating.
    • Grazulis has an F2 rating.

    Counties:

    • SPC/NCDC list this in Charlotte County, though their path has it in Charles City County.  (This did not affect Charlotte County.)
    • Grazulis lists Surry, Charles City and James City Counties.

        Sussex and Prince George Counties: "Carson Tornado"

        Official Rating: F2
        Time: 8:20 AM
        Path Length: 15 miles
        Path Width: 450 yds

        Per Storm Data: The tornado touched down near the Sussex-Prince George County line, just east of Carson, about 35 miles southeast of Richmond. The storm moved northeast for 15-18 miles. A mobile home and a barn were destroyed. A large oak tree with a diameter of 3.5 feet was picked up and blown across a one-story residence with five people inside. No one was injured but one person had to dig himself out from the rubble.

        The map provided by Roy Britt has this listed as an F3 and shows a different path. This is echoed by Grazulis. Grazulis states this tornado occurred at 8:05 AM.

        Additional details from Grazulis: Moved northeast from five miles northeast of the point of where the previous tornado ended (this would’ve been the first tornado that we have dubbed the “Edgerton Tornado.”) The funnel moved northeast almost on the Sussex County line, crossing Highway 50 about Six miles west of Stony Creek. In that area, two homes were completely destroyed. Continuing to the northeast, barns and a trailer were destroyed, and trees were uprooted. The tornado crossed I-95.

        The tornado moved through Sussex, Dinwiddie, and Prince George Counties, not just Sussex and Prince George Counties as Storm Data presents. Grazulis and Storm Data do list one injury, though they both say no one was injured by the tree getting flung onto the house. This injury must have occurred elsewhere.

        Grazulis’ F3 rating seems applicable. Damage photos provided in storm data shows definite F3 damage to homes that were destroyed.

        SPC Start: 37.3 / -76.95      End: 37.32 / -76.9

        Corrected Coordinates based on the description in Significant Tornadoes:

        Start: 37.220526/-76.997225        End: 37.310371/-76.786548

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

        Image Via Storm Data
        Image via Storm Data

        Discrepancies:

        We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the October 1986 Storm Data Publication (SDP), and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

        Width:

        • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have a 450 yard width.
        • Grazulis has a 400 yard width.

        Rating:

        • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have an F2 rating.
        • Grazulis has an F3 rating.

        Counties:

        • SPC,NCDC, and SDP only include Sussex, Prince George.
        • Grazulis lists Dinwiddie, Sussex and Prince George.

            Dinwiddie and Prince George Counties: "Hopewell Tornado"

            Official Rating: F2
            Time: 8:20 AM
            Path Length: 2 miles
            Path Width: 100 yds

            Per Storm Data: The tornado appears to have first touched down in Northern Dinwiddie County before moving northeast across Hopewell to the James River. The tornado was a funnel cloud for much of its lifetime. An outdoor shelter was ripped apart on the west side of the city of Hopewell. The tornado picked up pieces of metal from the Allied Chemical Plant and carried them through the air.

            Additional detail from the News-Leader Newspaper from Staunton Virginia: The tornado passed over the Hopewell News, the ceiling was “sucked” from the entry of the building.

            Roy Britt’s map shows this as an F2. However, Grazulis does not list this in Significant Tornadoes. I agree with Grazulis in not listing this as significant. The damage described in Storm Data is not F2 damage, and seems like minimal F1 damage.

            SPC Start 37.27 / -77.3      End: Same as start:

            Corrected Coordinates based on the description in Storm Data Publication:

            Start: 37.283914/-77.337978      End: 37.302102/-77.261159

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

            Discrepancies:

            We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the October 1986 Storm Data Publication (SDP) and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

            Rating:

            • SPC, NCDC, and SDP have an F2 rating.
            • Grazulis does not list this tornado in Significant Tornadoes.

                Sources:

                The Storm Prediction Center

                NCDC Storm Events Database

                October 1986 Storm Data Publication

                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 991.

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