WESTERN NEW YORK – On May 31, 1985, a massive and destructive tornado outbreak occurred across the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada.
In all, 43 tornados occurred on that day scattered across Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario, Canada, according to the National Weather Service.
In their destructive path weather service officials said 89 people died, more than 1,000 people were injured, and more than $600 million dollars in property damage happened. The visible satellite loop below shows the explosive growth of thunderstorms across Ontario, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and Western New York on the afternoon of May 31.
One of those tornados happened when a funnel cloud was first reported down near Clymer. It would rise and fall as it crossed the southern part of Chautauqua County. It moved across parts of the towns of Harmony, Busti, Kiantone, and Carrol, before ending in Poland, 26 miles from its first touchdown point. The F3-rated tornado damaged 70 homes, injured 10 people, caused $3 to 4 million dollars of damage, but no deaths were reported.
Another tornado started in Wattsburg, Pa., moved through Corry, and ended in Clymer. It was rated a F4 (would be revised to an EF5 today). Tornado records first started being kept in the 1950’s, so this tornado is the only F4/F5 tornado recorded in Western New York that we know off.
A quote from the original survey report produced by NOAA in 1985 regarding the outbreak said “Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the 1985 outbreak is that under the proper atmospheric conditions, major tornadoes can occur irrespective of the location or terrain”.