CONVOY, Ohio (WANE) – A weak EF-0 tornado was confirmed from the round of storms that moved through the area on Monday, February 27. It impacted part of Convoy, Ohio, in Van Wert County.
The tornado had peak winds around 70 mph. It was on the ground for 0.60 miles, had a maximum width of 75 yards, and only lasted for approximately two minutes. No injuries or fatalities occurred.
Director of Van Wert County Emergency Management Rick McCoy says this is the 34th tornado he has surveyed in his 32 and a half years in this role. This includes the November 2002 EF-4 tornado that impacted Van Wert.
For this particular tornado, McCoy was in the office and tracking the storms when a Tornado Watch was issued. He proceeded to make radio announcements that went out across the county. As the storms passed, he was not concerned, but the storms looked more interesting around Convoy.
Sure enough, he would soon get a 911 call about a power pole and a transformer falling on a vehicle in western Convoy. The power lines were still live and had trapped three people in the vehicle. Two minutes later, he fielded another call from someone who had been driving down US 30 northeast of Convoy and saw a funnel cloud. The individual described the funnel as being barely off the ground and then he lost visibility of it in the heavy rain.
McCoy then took a look at the Convoy weather station, which is one of 23 weather stations he has access to across the county. The Convoy station recorded a gust of 57 mph at 3:02 PM and then it went down as a result of the loss of electrical power.
Multiple calls of damage then came in on the west side of town. After the storm had passed, McCoy left the office and started surveying the damage.
When he arrived on the scene, McCoy saw power poles, large trees, tree limbs, a number of transformers all down, plus three trampolines that had been flung from several yards away. He was able to discern a damage path out to the west of Convoy east into town across the Mercer Landmark business, three blocks into Sycamore Street, crossing State Route 49, and then through another block of Hall Drive. Homes in this stretch had a lot of shingles torn off, holes in their siding, and corn fodder from the neighboring field that had blown into town.
From this point, McCoy looked to decide if it was a tornado or straight line winds. To him, he could see some twist in the trees, but it was harder to determine with there being no leaves on the trees this time of the year. There were certainly plenty of tree limbs snapped and trees uprooted though.
He then spoke to the manager of the Mercer Landmark business. He said the storm was the worst he’s ever experienced. He heard a roar and it felt like a pressure vacuum inside the building. His ears popped worse than when he has ever flown in an airplane. McCoy has heard this description a lot when it comes to tornadoes.
McCoy next examined two properties on either side of Sycamore Street. On one property, a chicken coop had been lifted up and thrown against a garage. Everything on the south side of the roadway had been pushed to the northeast whereas everything on the north side of the road had been pushed to the southeast. This was evidence of a convergence point and further evidence of a tornado.
McCoy was also able to reference his own security camera footage from his home in Convoy. At 3 PM, there were southeast winds and light rain. At 3:01 PM, it was dead calm. Then at 3:02 PM, his camera went out and he came home to find his fence had been blown down.
His last piece of evidence came the next day when he was able to fly his drone and examine the damage. The convergence of the trees was very obvious.
So, the call about seeing a funnel cloud, the description of ears popping, and the obvious convergence point allowed this tornado to be identified. The National Weather Service was able to confirm an EF-0 tornado based on all of this information McCoy was able to provide.
McCoy’s experience and use of the drone has allowed him to conduct so many of these surveys. He knows what questions to ask and he is aware of what he is looking for. He has now been using his personal drone for storm surveys for six years. He has a 107 commercial license through the FAA and he renews it every few years. Drones have revolutionized storm surveys, as it is now much easier to identify and find things, especially rain-wrapped tornadoes. Below is some damage he’s surveyed using his drone where he’s been able to identify a tornado.
Van Wert County sees more tornadoes than any other county in Indiana and Ohio, plus Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. This makes the residents there very weather aware. It remains unclear what makes Van Wert so tornado prone. McCoy thinks it could be related to a wind current off of Lake Michigan perfectly interacting with warm and cold fronts in his county. What makes Van Wert County more special than others though? The debate is still out there.
The Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team will keep an eye on the conditions for Van Wert County and all of the area as spring severe weather season approaches. You can visit our WANE 15 Forecast Page for the latest information. If you’d like to contact the Van Wert County EMA office, visit this link. You can also view the official report on the tornado by visiting the National Weather Service’s webpage here.