Twisters rare in Putnam County, statistics show

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Funnel clouds to the north of us; twisters to the south this week. Death and devastation in Missouri and Alabama this spring.

Tornadoes have dominated the news for several weeks now, even as we approach the June 1 start of another hurricane season.

Yet the storms that roared through Indiana earlier this week managed to dance all around the area without doing any real major damage to Putnam County.

As of Friday afternoon, 13 tornadoes had been confirmed in Indiana over the Wednesday-Thursday period, with the latest one identified five miles east/southeast of Rockville (or near Bellmore) in Parke County. Occurring at 9:40 p.m. Wednesday with wind speed estimated at 90 mph, the EF-1 tornado was reportedly 150 yards wide and on the ground for one mile.

So despite all of that, the question remains: How frequently does Putnam County actually experience a confirmed tornado?

Rarely, according to the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service. In fact, NWS statistics list only 16 tornadoes being confirmed in Putnam County between Jan. 1, 1950 and the present.

As of today, it has now been 2,883 days since a tornado was confirmed in the county.

The last official twister reported in Putnam County occurred July 8, 2003 near Bainbridge. That was the storm that did significant damage to the Mark Timm residence and other structures along and around U.S. 36 on the west side of Bainbridge.

Overall, National Weather Service figures show the 16 reported Putnam tornadoes as responsible for $3.91 million in property damage, causing one death (June 2, 1990) and 10 injuries (seven of which came in a May 10, 1969 twister).

The latest official tornado to strike Greencastle was reported Aug. 23, 2002 when the storm caused an estimated $200,000 damage.

Only three times since 1950 has Putnam County experienced more than one twister in a year. Those instances came in 1988, 1989 and 2003. All three years there were two tornadoes reported in the county.

NWS figures also list the times the tornadoes were reported. Seven of the 16 storms occurred between 5:15 and 6:45 p.m., while four times twisters have hit between 1 and 2 p.m.

Overall, the numbers average out to make 2:07 p.m. the most likely time for a Putnam tornado occurrence.

By time, the earliest tornado reported was at 11:35 a.m. on May 10, 1969, while the latest was at 8:45 p.m. Oct. 17, 1988.

The earliest date for a tornado to strike the area was March 20, 1976, while the latest twister reported in any year was the Dec. 11, 1967 storm (another late-season storm occurred Nov. 22, 1992).

Unfortunately until 1993, the NWS stats list the storm location only as Putnam County. From 1993 on, the list at least pinpoints a town as the location (1993 in Putnamville, 2002 in Greencastle, 2003 in Cloverdale and Bainbridge.)

The list also does not include the devastating August 1990 Downburst that struck Greencastle. It was determined to be straight-line wind damage.

Also missing from the list are the March 26, 1948 Good Friday tornado that destroyed much of the town of Coatesville, killing 14 people, and the fabled Palm Sunday tornado of April 11, 1965 that somehow missed Putnam County but spawned 47 tornadoes in becoming the deadliest tornado in Hoosier history (137 deaths and 1,200 injuries).

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  • Don't you mean the Good Friday tornado of 1948?

    -- Posted by South of 40 on Sat, May 28, 2011, at 7:11 AM
  • I think if you check your facts you will find it was Good Friday tornado 1948 NOT 1984.

    -- Posted by Old Man on Sat, May 28, 2011, at 4:48 PM
    Response by Daryl Taylor:
    Yes, thanks. Numbers just got transposed in typing.

    -- Posted by Grandma10 on Sun, May 29, 2011, at 1:57 AM
  • Anything can happen at anytime. Statistics don't mean anything if it happens to us.

    -- Posted by cds1305 on Mon, May 30, 2011, at 12:12 AM
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