The 1977 Storm of the Century Was a destructive tornado outbreak that hit areas in western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and Northern West Virginia. The tornado outbreak is best known for producing an F5 tornado that caused a total meltdown of reactor #1 At The Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station, which forced an evacuation of all of Pittsburgh and other cities.
A powerful late-spring low pressure system developed across much of the Midwest on May 20th. While moving East, a surge of very moist air intensified the system further while there was sharp temperature contrasts between both sides of the system. NOAA and NWS officials were predicting a severe weather outbreak on May 23, but the prediction was nowhere near the magnitude of the actual event. By May 23, severe weather watches were being issued for parts of the Eastern US and the Ohio valley.
By 1:00 PM EST, several cells were confirmed on radar, with rotation being reported in some cells. The first tornado touched down at 1:42 PM near Lancaster, Ohio, dissipating over a farm at 2:14 PM.
The system tracked east, dropping tornadoes across Ohio and West Virginia. The system seemed to intensify as it entered Pennsylvania, dropping 4 F3 Tornadoes and 2 F4 tornadoes. A cell with very strong rotation entered Beaver County, Dropping a tornado over the County Line. The tornado rapidly intensified from a weak rope tornado to a half-mile wide F5 Wedge. It wiped a neighborhood clean, killing 23. The Tornado directly hit Beaver Valley Nuclear, Extremely Damaging Reactor #1 Before dissipating. The tornado spread Radiation very quickly, forcing an Evacuation of all cities in a 75 Mile Radius to be Evacuated. The system weakened as it entered The East Coast states, and the system dissipated over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of May 24.
15 reports of tornadoes were received, with a total of 11 confirmed.
|List of confirmed tornadoes - Monday, May 23, 1977|
|F#||Location||County||Time (EST)||Path length||Max width||Summary|
|F4||2.2 SW of Lancaster to 1.4 SW of Rushville||Fairfield||1:42 - 2:14 PM||8.7 Miles||.54 Miles||21 Deaths - See section on this tornado|
|F0||.7 Miles SW of Nelsonville to 2.3 Miles SW Of Butchel||Athens||1:58 - 2:01 PM||.8 Miles||42 Feet||Brief Tornado caused minimal damage to subdivisions in Nelsonville.|
|F0||Oak Hill||Jackson||2:12 - 2:14 PM||.6 Miles||36 Feet||Brief Tornado caused minor damage to a library.|
|F1||.3 Miles SW Of Rutland to 3.4 Miles SW of Wolfpen||Meigs||2:24-2:27 PM||1.1 Miles||.10 Miles||F1 Tornado caused slight damage to main street in Rutland. 2 People were injured.|
|F2||1.8 Miles SW of Spencer to 6.2 Miles SW of Rocksdale||Roane||2:43-2:49 PM||3.9 Miles||.21 Miles||3 Deaths - A Large F2 Tornado Severely damaged parts of West Spencer. The Tornado killed 3 People when a restaurant collapsed onto people riding out the storm. In addition, the tornado injured 12 people.|
|F4||1.7 Miles SW Of Morgantown to .6 Miles SW of Morgantown Municipal Airport||Monongalia||2:56-3:04 PM||3.2 Miles||.43 Miles||13 Deaths - See section on this Tornado|
|F0||.5 Miles SW of Hermitage to 3.6 Miles SW of Clark||Mercer||3:12 - 3:14 PM||.73 Miles||33 Feet||A fast moving tornado caused minimal damage to houses East of Hermitage.|
|F3||1.1 Miles SW of New Castle to 6.5 Miles SW of Volant||Lawrence||3:23-3:27 PM||3.6 Miles||.18 Miles||6 Deaths - A fast moving wedge caused severe damage to a subdivision, killing 6 and injuring 32.|
|F5||.2 Miles E of Hookstown to .9 Miles SW of Vanport||Beaver||3:33 - 3:46 PM||6.3 Miles||1.3 Miles||28 Deaths (+220 Indirect) - See Section on this tornado|
|F4||4.6 Miles SW of Indiana to 1.5 miles E of Dixonville||Indiana||3:57 - 4:12 PM||13.3 Miles||.8 Miles||4 Deaths - Large F4 destroyed multiple homes in the city of Indiana. 1 person was killed when their car was thrown off a freeway. 3 more were killed when the tornado hit a Subdivision.|
|F3||.8 Miles SW of Curwensville to .3 Miles SW of Hyde||Clearfield||4:32 - 4:40 P,M||4.2 Miles||80 Yards||Thin EF3 caused severe damage in the borough of Curwensville.|