NCDC / Satellite Gallery / Thunderstorms / Ohio, August 1997 / SAA / Search NCDC

Polar Satellite

Ohio Thunderstorms

August 17, 1997

GOES Satellite

Ohio Thunderstorm Image
Visible Image

Ohio Thunderstorm Image
Infrared Image

Ohio Thunderstorm Image
Water Vapor Image

Strong thunderstorm complexes developed over Ohio and Kentucky on the afternoon of August 17, 1997 and pushed to the East Coast by midnight. The gallery presents visible, infrared, and water vapor images, all taken at 19:15 UTC (15:15 EDT). Within 15 minutes on either side of the time when the series of satellite images were taken, downbursts from the thunderstorms had caused tree damage and power outages in seven counties.

Image Information

Satellite System Image Specifics
Satellite Name GOES 8 Channel Band No. 1 (Visible)
No. 4 (Infrared)
No. 3 (Water Vapor)
Date August 17, 1997 Resolution 1-km (Visible)
4-km (Infrared)
8-km (Water Vapor)
Julian Date 229 Orbit No./Dir NA
Time 19:15 UTC
15:15 EDT
Entity ID NA
Instrument System Imager Area Ohio
Data Type Sector


Event Discussion

Ohio Thunderstorms / August 17, 1997

Ohio Thunderstorm Visible Image

Figure 1
Visible Image
Ohio Thunderstorm Infrared Image

Figure 2
Infrared Image
Ohio Thunderstorm Water Vapor Image

Figure 3
Water Vapor Image

Conditions at the Time of the Images

Strong thunderstorm complexes developed over Ohio and Kentucky on the afternoon of August 17, 1997 and pushed to the East Coast by midnight. Two large damaging thunderstorm complexes are shown at 19:15 UTC (15:15 EDT) in the visible, infrared, and water vapor channels: one along the OH-WV state line and the other spanning southwestern Ohio into north central Kentucky. Within 15 minutes on either side of the time when the series of satellite images were acquired, downbursts from the thunderstorms had caused tree damage and power outages in at least seven counties. The most significant damage was to the north of Proctorville, OH, just to the northeast of the confluence of the OH-WV-KY state lines where a National Weather Service Preliminary Local Storm Report for 3:10 PM EDT indicated the number of downed trees was "reported in the hundreds by ham radio spotter." Trees were also reported down in Cabell County (WV) by the same storm complex 20 minutes later. Meanwhile to the west, the larger second thunderstorm complex was causing tree damage to Scioto and Brown counties in Ohio and to Pendleton, Mason, and Bath counties in Kentucky. These counties are all under or on the east side of the purple area in the infrared scene (Figure 2). In this color-enhanced infrared image, purple colors are used to indicate the coldest areas, hence the highest cloudtops and areas of strongest updrafts. At 19:35 UTC, the top of the West Virginia storm was reported to be 56000 feet and the Kentucky storm topped out at 54800 feet.

History of the Event

At 15:00 UTC on August 17, low pressure was centered in northern Illinois with a trailing cold front into Kansas and a warm front stretched eastward from the low to Pennsylvania where it became stationary into New England. South of the cold front a secondary low was in southern Indiana with a trof southwestward into Oklahoma. To the south and east of the trof, temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic states were in the mid to upper 90's (or higher! See note on "Record Heat at Washington, DC" below.), while to the north of the front, cooler, drier air prevailed. During the course of the afternoon, the secondary low and accompanying trof became the responsible mechanisms for producing a series of severe thunderstorm complexes which swept from Ohio to the East Coast during the course of the afternoon and early evening. The first damage was reported at 11:30 EDT at Georgetown, OH, southeast of Cincinnati. This storm moved eastward producing wind damage as the second complex to the west became severe. At 13:45 EDT, a grain bin was damaged in Ripley County, Indiana, northwest of Cincinnati. Then at 14:30 EDT, Cincinnati's Lunken Field reported a 60 mph gust from the same thunderstorm complex. Scattered wind damage from both complexes was reported during the course of the next three hours. The first complex produced the most damage. At 14:00 EDT, a garden shed was destroyed near Parkersburg WV damaging 10 cars, and at 14:15 EDT several roofs were blown off houses at Belpre, OH. At 15:10 EDT, a ham radio spotter reported the number of trees blown down in Wayne National Forest along State Route 775 north of Proctorville, OH numbered in the hundreds!

The three MPEG movie loops show development and movement of the storms during the three and one-half hour time span from 17:15 UTC (13:15 EDT) to 20:45 UTC (16:45 EDT) using visible, and color-enhanced infrared and water vapor channels. The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm watch numbers 697 and 698 to cover the areas. The most severe storms are occurring underneath the red and purple areas on the infrared images, reflecting the highest cloud tops. These same areas show up as purple on the water vapor loops, indicating areas with the highest water vapor content. Two thunderstorm complexes very near each other are shown slowly moving eastward from Ohio during the course of the loops.

Later in the evening, thunderstorms developed in the Mid-Atlantic region. A 70 mph wind gust was measured at Roamancoke, MD at 17:30 EDT. Eight fires were started by lightning in Kent County Maryland by a storm around 18:30 EDT. At 20:10 EDT, a 85 mph gust was recorded south of Bethany Beach, DE, and just north of Fenwick Island, one mobile home was destroyed and five others were damaged in the same storm. Other storms caused scattered damage in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware between 1800 EDT and 2200 EDT.

Meanwhile to the west, a new series of storms erupted in Kentucky and Ohio. At 18:55 EDT near Owingsville, KY, the roof was blown off a house and the walls collapsed. A wind gust of 64 mph was reported near Sharpsburg, KY at 19:15 EDT. Golf-ball sized hail (1.75 inches in diameter) fell near Harrison, OH at 19:23 EDT, and at 19:30 EDT, wind gusts of 70 mph were reported near Cheviot, both northwest of Cincinnati. The last wind damage from this complex occurred at 20:20 EDT at Pleasant Plain, northeast of Cincinnati. By this time, the severe activity had moved north and by 23:35 UTC, severe thunderstorm watches were in effect in an arc from New Jersey westward to Iowa and southwest to Kansas.

Record Heat at Washington, DC

Excessive heat developed southeast of the nearly stationary front during the afternoon. At National Airport (DCA) in Washington DC, the temperature at 3:25 PM reached 105 degrees, the highest ever recorded for that location. DCA has been the official recording site for Washington's weather for the past 56 years (since DCA opened in 1941). Previous records for the DC area include 106 degrees recorded on August 6, 1918 and again on July 20, 1930 at a different urbanized site. A reading of 105 degrees was also recorded on July 10, 1936. At the time of National's 105 degree reading set on August 17, dew points were in the upper 60's causing a heat index of around 113 degrees. The extreme heat in the Washington metro area was broken less than two hours later when three people were injured by lightning and a wind gust of 63 mph was recorded at nearby Dulles International Airport as thunderstorms tore through the region.


NCDC / Satellite Gallery / Thunderstorms / Ohio, August 1997 / SAA / Search NCDC

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