Hot and Humid
It was late afternoon on Friday, May 31, 1985. The day was becoming increasingly hot and humid, and I stripped my 3-year old down to underwear and a t-shirt and my baby (then 8 months old) was in nothing but a cloth diaper and rubber pants. Our mobile home was sweltering without air conditioning and we were finding little relief. I was 2 months pregnant with our third child and just recovering from a very rough patch in my life. But at 23 years old with renewed faith, I was feeling much better and spring brought with it a newfound appreciation for living and the new life inside of me.
The afternoon was strangely calm. It was getting close to supper time when the wind began to blow hard. I rescued a hanging planter from my awning as it swung like a reckless pendulum. Once back inside, I started getting a strange feeling. Somewhere deep within the maternal part of me, I began to contemplate taking the girls to the bathroom and getting in the bathtub. I had surmised that this was the safest room because it had no windows. I was in this thought pattern and still not consciously thinking tornado when I heard my neighbor shouting.
Running for our Lives
I ran to my kitchen window which faced west and looked up. The sky was strangely rolled back and an odd color. It almost looked like it was boiling. Although I didn’t see the typical funnel, what I was seeing was monstrous and I knew it was a tornado. Just then, like a scene from a Godzilla movie, a crowd of trailer dwellers began running past my window, because every mobile home dweller knows – you stay in a trailer during a tornado, you are as good as dead.
I grabbed my children and just as I got to my front steps, I saw Steve and Pat - neighbors I had befriended who had girls the same ages as mine. Steve was carrying the oldest, and Pat was following him carrying their youngest when I called for them. Steve met me halfway and took Nikki, my oldest, and Pat and I ran after him carrying our babies. Seeing Steve with Nikki kept me going despite the fact that I had no shoes on and we were running on gravel. I do not remember feeling or hearing a thing – it was pure terror mixed with adrenaline. Then just a few trailers up, we came to the home of my sister-in-law. She and her husband lived there with my 4-year old niece. I wanted to alert them, but I didn’t want to leave Nikki. I was in this moral dilemma when they burst out of their trailer and joined the crowd. Somewhere along the line, Steve, who was leading the pack, announced that he was taking us to an old farm on the edge of the trailer park. There in the side of hill, was a half-buried milk house. He hoped to get us all crowded in there, but we were exhausted and scared and when we got as far as an abandoned barn someone suggested we stay. This could have been fatal decision had the tornado stayed to its path, but it didn’t.
An Abrupt Turn
Less than a mile away, my father-in-law, Carl, stood on his porch and shook his fist in defiance at the beast while his wife and some greenhouse workers scurried to the basement. He watched the funnel, heading straight for town, make an abrupt turn to the left and travel up over a hill where it would roll a mobile home on top of and kill a teenage boy before hitting a friend’s barn collapsing the roof and crushing the cattle inside. Further up the hill, this friend would lose most of his house - the top half blowing away while his wife clung to an inside wall. She would later seek me out looking for diapers her face frozen in shock.
It would then hit the town of Cherry Tree and completely annihilate a small mobile home park there leaving nothing standing but a shower stall and bathtub. When I would see this a short time later, I would think about how that was the only place in my mobile home that I thought to take refuge. Further up the road from the Cherry Tree trailer park, a co-worker would find her relatives hanging dead in a tree, their under clothes pulled up around their necks.
In Oil City, where my husband at the time worked at a local Agway, someone would mistakenly tell him that the tornado leveled the Cooperstown trailer park instead of the Cherry Tree trailer park. Fearing we were dead, he would still have to go through the process of clearing the store of customers and locking the doors. In Franklin, my parents would drive to my sister-in-laws house, the only relative I was able to reach by phone as many lines were down. They would hear that we were safe and sit down on her front steps and cry together. My brother-in-law, a nurse at the Franklin Hospital would watch ambulances line up at the emergency room door, some pulling away before unloading, their victims already dead.
A killer is a killer and those in it's path had little time to prepare.
According to The Pennsylvania Weather Book, May 31, 1985 would prove to be the deadliest tornado outbreak in Pennsylvania's history! Sixty-three Pennsylvanians would lose their lives. Right after an F4 tornado ripped through Albion in Erie County, another F4 storm formed just west of the Ohio border in Kinsman Ohio. This is the storm that eventually traveled to our location in Cooperstown before dying out in Tionesta. This killer storm traveled 56 miles killing 16 people and injuring 125.
All toll, a former tornado history website showed that 33 tornadoes touched down May 31st in Pennsylvania causing 796 injuries and 75 deaths.
After the storms passed, PA tried to recover. As communities always do, many pulled together to help the injured and those who suffered loss. As houses and lives were rebuilt, memories of the day lingered on.
Every time a storm kicked up that year and years that followed, panic would take over and many in the our little community would run for shelter. For a long time after May 31st, every time it would storm, Nikki's (my oldest) knees would knock with fear and I could not calm her. Eventually, we would buy a house with a basement which provided us with great security. She is 30 years old now and still texts me if there is a watch or warning to make sure I'm safe.
And it does appear we are safer than we were in 1985 thanks to advances in technology and the strides made by the National Weather Service (NWS). From a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) original survey report we garner these afterthoughts, "...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". The site goes onto say that NWS now has the, "... ability to track and diagnose severe and tornadic storms via Doppler radar...The current national Doppler radar network allows forecasters to get a far more detailed view of these dangerous thunderstorms..."
Although there will always be natural disasters, a better equipped NWS has made improvements that will, according to the NOAA site, "help mitigate loss of life and property.
(The full report is worth reading and can be found at the link below under "References".)
Since its publishing a few years ago, tens of thousands have read this article and some have shared their experiences from this day (see comments). Some lost friends, family and pets. Some were injured. Many were traumatized by the event, but lived to tell their story. In memory of those Pennsylvanians who lost their lives and in honor of those who survived, I have approved their comments and encourage you to read them. For many, May 31, 1985 will live in their memories for the rest of their lives. May the love and comfort of those who surround you and the support from the community give the survivors the hope they need to carry on. I know for me and many readers, the long blast of the tornado siren from local fire departments each tornado season is a grim, but necessary reminder that nature can be unpredictable and dangerous.
The sky looked like it was boiling...
- Visible satellite loop May 31 1985
Visible satellite image showing storms which produced a violent tornado outbreak. From National Weather Service website: The Tornado Outbreak of May 31, 1985 - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Tornadoes - Everything you Need to Know and More
- The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC)
The basics on tornadoes are covered at this link and everything else including the F-scale, who developed it and what it is about.
Gelber, B. (2002). The Pennsylvania weather book. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
May 31, 1985 Tornado - The 25th Anniversary. (n.d.). noaa.gov. Retrieved May 2, 2013, from http://www.erh.noaa.gov/ctp/features/TornadoOutbreak_May1985/TornadoOutbreak_May1985_Summary.pdf
Desmond Goitsemang from selebi phikwe Botswana on June 06, 2019:
hi, i read your story, wonderful i must confess. I dont even know what to say. but yah, 100%inspiring
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 03, 2019:
Stay safe and thank you for sharing Kierstyn. It's good you have your mom and dad to lean on.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 03, 2019:
What an amazing story - and thank goodness you are all okay. I love that your child holds your Care Bear. That's so precious! Best wishes to you and your family.
Kierstyn on June 03, 2019:
Ok so this was just last night,it was 5:55pm and a warning went on the tv for a tornado watch but then 20mins later it said that one had already started at gatineau airport and then it traveled to orleans (which is 15 min drive from my house)i was scared
No thats not all.
Another tornado hit by rockcland and russel which is a 1hr drive.my dad knows people who live there so i feel bad for him. 7:40pm it was time for bed and the website thing said the alarm would still be on for 47mins so i didnt want to listen to the radio but i cant sleep without the radio and my broother had his on so i read until 9:10pm in my mom and dads bed. I woke up this morning like it was a dream BUT IT WASNT.
Jeff Say on May 31, 2019:
I was 7 years old and had just finished the last day of second grade at Kane Elementary School. I remember going home and being excited about the start of summer, but little did I know my summer was about to take a drastic, traumatic turn. I remember my mom and dad listening to the forecast on WKZA, and the announcer casually mentioning there may be storms. Around 7 p.m. that night, the reports started to trickle in of tornadoes in the area and conditions being right. I remember my mom arguing with my older brother to not go out that night, but he had plans to go to the movies with his girlfriend and he wasn't about to be deterred. He left, and shortly after we got a phone call from my uncle. He lived in Sigel, Pa., and he said we had better take shelter - there was a tornado headed our way. I remember sitting on the couch and looking out and noticing how still it seemed. The sky was an odd orange/yellow color and yet there was no rain, no wind, no thunder. My mom grabbed me and carried me downstairs, though I was probably half of her size. My dad stayed upstairs as all of a sudden hell hit. My mom held me in the basement, reciting the Rosary, as rain pelted our windows. I know it's cliche - but it really does sound like a train driving through your house when a tornado hits. Those first few second I'm sure I've blocked from my memory, because all I remember is looking outside and seeing limbs up against the basement window and the house shaking like a bomb went off. "Jim, Jim," my mom yelled. "Where are you? JIM!"
"That GD tree fell on the house," my dad replied from upstairs. He ran down the basement steps, swearing about the curio cabinet being knocked over, saying we couldn't get out the back door. He opened the sturdy basement door and outside was a war zone. Trees were down, electric lines popped. From the other side, I heard our neighbors Art and Neal Osmer yelling for us. "We're OK, that damn tree came down," my dad yelled out. Up the stairs we went - the image of the water pouring from the vent in our reception room will never leave my memory. Tree limbs jutted into the house - my brother's room was destroyed. As our neighbors broke into the front door to get us out, I grabbed the other thing I could - a Bedtime Care Bear and carried it out in my teeth as my neighbor Neal carried me out the door. I looked to my left and saw my G.I. Joe amphibious carrier (with all of my G.I. Joes in it) floating out of my sunporch and down the street. Our neighbors carried me over to my God parents house and I just remember it being about 8 p.m. and dark as midnight outside. Soon, my brother pulled up - he had turned around when he realized he left his wallet and just missed pulling into the driveway when the tornado hit. I was sent away for weeks to my aunt's house in Youngsville - which wasn't hit as hard - while my dad, brother and friends worked to put the house back together. We were lucky, we were able to repair and rebuild. We had several family friends that lost everything. Funny thing is, I still have that Care Bear. My oldest now clings to it every time we have a storm, saying "you got my daddy through a tornado, you can get me through a thunderstorm."
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 21, 2019:
Bethany and Barb,
What incredible stories. Barb, I am so glad you are okay. How terrifying. I think after that day many of us became more and more cautious with the weather knowing the damage it can do to property and more importantly, our lives. Thank you both for sharing.
Barb Bauer on May 20, 2019:
I was 12 years old at the time the tornado ripped trough the Jamesway Plaza on Rt 18 in Big Beaver, PA, crossed the Beaver River and then continued the leave a path of destruction on Edgewood Road before taking out Spot Light 88 Drive in and all the other businesses on that same intersection. We lived in the second home that was destroyed on Edgewood Road (my family still lives at the same property, new house). I remember almost everything from that night. My mother, sister, and I tried to attend the Riverside Graduation that night but had to come back home with it being moved inside. We had changed back into shorts and no shoes, because of it being so hot. I went upstairs to try to call a friend in my parent room but, she could not talk and was going to call me back. Everyone else was downstairs playing Atari while I stayed upstairs and watched Webster, seeing the Tornado Warnings come across the screen but ignoring them because I was told to, "Tornado's don't happen in Western PA". That's when the power went out. I bolted down the stairs and we all looked out the window in the living room facing the direction the tornado was coming from. My dad yelled and expletive word and "It's a Tornado!!" as my mom grabbed us kids and started running for the basement. My parents were draftsman and we hid under one of their heavy wood drafting tables, wrapping our arms around the base. That is when the tornado lifted the house up and threw it eight feet. Water from the river rained down on us as we pushed cinder blocks, wood, and other debris away from us. I looked up into the tornado at this time (and it looks nothing like it does in the movies). All the while, we all were doing everything we could to pop our ears from the horrible pressure. Once it was over, we climbed out of the basement and began to walk around, my dad was the only one with shoes on and he was bleeding from the top of his head from a cut caused by a long florescent light that fell when the house lifted. He was taken to the hospital to have it taken care. We only lost a couple of things in the house that night. When I let the memories flow from that night I remember almost everything from that night, from the clothes we all had on, where the furniture was in the house, to what it all looked like afterwards, the only thing I can't see from that night is what is beyond that living room window. No matter how hard I try, the window is always black. I will never, ever forget about that night. We did rebuild the house, my parents helped a lot of our neighbors with house plans so they could rebuild, and I still get very nervous when I hear a tornado watch or warning and when the sky gets that ugly yellow/green color.
Bethany on May 20, 2019:
I was a sixth grader. My family lived in Franklin, and had planned a trip to Meadville for that evening. We were picking up a graduation gift for my cousin at Dahlkemper's. That store had a full wall of plate glass windows, and my family's memory of that trip begins with the memories of arriving at the store and being very aware that the sky wasn't right. Ordinarily we would have wandered around and spent a long time at that store but we instantly made a plan of not staying there long... I think we were there less than 10 minutes. My mother says that prior to this she had wondered why people were shopping in the midst of a disaster, and at that moment she thought we're those people... I know there were no warnings on the radio prior to that point, and the main point of reference was an ugly sky. We left that and I have a vague memory of sirens and ambulances going by as we left there and went in town to Ricci's to eat our dinner... I think there was a perception that the storm had moved away from the region and I think this part of the story is probably about when the Albion area was hit. While we were in Ricci's in downtown Meadville a second storm struck that was hard and sudden. The restaurant lost power and it was scary, but there were no windows to see out to know exactly what was happening. We again heard sirens, and still there was no warning. After our meal we left the restaurant and I remember that while the storm had been hard that the ground was strangely clear of debris... We then got in our car to go home to Franklin and would have been passing through the Cochranton, Cooperstown, Utica areas... By this point we were well aware that something strange was going on, but there was nothing on the radio to let us know exactly what was happening until literally we found ourselves in the midst of one of the tornadoes pathways... The radio finally began reporting tornadoes as we began witnessing for ourselves the damage. As I mentioned, I was a sixth grader, and it so happened that the last story in the sixth grade reading book was about tornadoes on the prairie. Tips for surviving a tornado had been printed in the book, and I began telling my parents what I knew. My dad was saying if we see one I will drive out of the way because he thought that was possible but the book had explained that cars weren't safe and that getting in a ditch was the best option, so the tornado is forever linked to my schoolbook. My mom's best friend was my sixth grade teacher, so my mom recognized that I was giving good information and the only valid information that we had available... fortunately we didn't see a tornado in the sky ahead of us... but we did cross the paths of the storm very shortly afterward. We arrived in Franklin in time for my school's ice cream social which probably would not have been our destination had not my parents both been teachers there who went in to tell our friends what we had seen. We were essentially the canaries to tell others that there was a problem and it wasn't over. I remember my friends' father's pagers going off simultaneously as Franklin hospital got the word of the crisis. The storm had come with us, and I remember the green yellow sky that night.
Stacey Putnam (Qualls) on July 02, 2018:
My son's kindergarten teacher approached me one day and said, Spencer doesn't usually tell "stories", but he is telling other children that his grandpa's ear was cut off in a tornado. My reply: "That, Mrs. Johnson, is a true story." We lived in Fombell, Pa. when my dad saw the tornado coming up the property snapping off trees like toothpicks, he will tell you. He only made it to the basement door when he saw the walls of the two story farmhouse come down on him. Neighbors found him in shock a hundred yards from where the house had been. Thank our gracious God that he lived. Only minutes before the tornado destroyed our house, barn, and garage, my mom, siblings and I left to go to town (Zelienople) for dinner. We were celebrating my sister's graduation from Riverside High School which was earlier that day. We stopped at the end of our lane to pick up hail balls, oblivious to what was right behind us.
Evelyn Adams Smith on June 02, 2018:
My youngest daughter was at a friend's house where the tornado went thru in the Columbus area. I was at grocery before and when I got in car my husband told me to get home right away that a tornado was heading for us. I floored the gas pedal in car and made it home as store was a mile from us.Thank God the storm changed course and went a different direction. If it would have continued the way it was going it would have gotten our house and the Corry Hospital was 5 houses past my house. Couldn't find my daughter. My sister and I belonged to Red Cross so We went there and started to make sandwiches for the volunteers..Found my daughter has her girlfriend and Julie had gone to town and missed being in it. Her friends house was lifted up And put back down in same spot.The only way we knew this was a bedroom curtain was sticking out from the house way under where window was. Couldn't have went thru house and sticking outside if it hadnt. The neighbors around that house lost alot of homes. Never was the skil ugly looking. All I can remember how green the sky lookedn
Dayna Spiece on June 01, 2018:
I was 5 years old and in Zelienople, PA. I remember sticking cups out from under the porch roof with my Papa catching golf ball sized hail when my uncle came running saying there was a tornado headed for us. As my grandparents rushed me to the basement, my uncle and girlfriend stayed upstairs to watch it head for us over interstate 79. I remember my gram taking me out into the driveway. I kicked her and buried my head in her neck while I watched leaves swirl around below on the driveway. She told me “look, you may never see this again”. I didn’t, of course, but wish I would have!
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 09, 2017:
Thank you for sharing Veronica - it certainly left an impact on the young and old alike.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 09, 2017:
Hi Carrie, So you were probably with us that day - I lived in Lepley's too.
Carrie G. on May 08, 2017:
I was 9 years old at the time, and I lived in Lepley's Trailer Park!! You probably know my parents!! I remember watching TV with my dad while my mom was washing dishes. She looked out the window, went back to washing dishes. She stopped again, and told us to go look out the door. The door was wide open. The sky was green with a little yellow in the middle. The next thing was hear is the sound of a freight train!!! My mom grabbed my sister and I by our shirt collars and jumped out the door, completely missing the porch and steps, landing in the middle of the yard. She hit the ground running! Dad was close behind with our dog and cat. We went to the big red Barn first...after things calmed down, we stayed in the hillside, inside of the spring that was dug into the hill. We stayed there until late at night, scared to leave. It was the most horrifying thing I have been through in my life!! Since then, I have been within a mile of 6 tornadoes, one of them touched down only 6 blocks from my apartment in Pittsburgh!! I still to this day, say that they are after me. I'm convinced that is how I'll die...in a tornado.
Veronica hill on May 08, 2017:
I remember it well. I was outside raking, my kids were inside the house. Everything was humid and it looked like I was looking through a yellow haze, everything was so still that you could hear a pin drop. I went back inside to check on the kids. My 8 yr. old son was sleeping on the couch and my 10 yr. old was playing in the living room. I got a call from my husband and he told me a tornado was coming, I didn't believe him, I ran into the living room opened the sliding glass door and it sounded like freight trains in my back yard, it was huge and heading right towards the back of our house. I shut the door told my daughter to wake up her brother. Then we all ran to the basement. It all happen so fast. Then it hailed really bad and rained real hard. It totally threw me in shock. Are garage got hit that was attached to our house totally destroyed it and part of our roof. We were all ok and safe. The house in the back got hit real hard they only had three walls left standing. My son is 40 yrs. old today and still gets jumpy when we are on watch for one. My daughter handles it a little better.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 08, 2017:
Wow! What a story and how a few small details probably saved her life. Thank you for sharing, Joyce. How very traumatic that must have been for her and you.
Joyce Breckenridge on May 07, 2017:
My mother was shopping for groceries in the shopping plaza on Rt 18 north of Beaver Falls, Pa. when a massive tornado went right over her and skipped over the nearby Beaver River, on to the golf course and later the drive-in theater, killing people along the way. A lady in the store next to the one my mom was in was killed. My mother was spared, we presume, for two reasons: one, she happened to be in the paper products aisle...lots of soft stuff there...and two, just as the front plate glass windows of the store were being blown in, her purse and keys went flying out of her hands, and she bent over to pick them up....and the glass shattered over her head. Her car in the parking lot out front was flattened like a pancake. Lots more to this story, but somehow she got to the hospital, the clothes on her back looking like they had been put through a shredder. The hospital staff picked the glass shards out of her and stitched her up, and we were able to take her home. But that night, as I was washing her hair, more glass came out of her scalp and she started bleeding again, so back to the hospital she went...more stitches were required. But she lived.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 05, 2017:
Matt, thank you for sharing that very sad story. I think I read about it in the Readers Digest at the time. It broke my heart.
Matt Robertson on May 04, 2017:
My wife and her family had there house destroyed in Albion and she lost her little brother Luke Stahlsmith in his mothers arms.I have personally seen the affects of this tornado,and what it did to a family and I could never emagine losing a 6 year old son.
April on May 03, 2017:
I was born May 5, 1985. And was lucky enough to have been just far enough from this crazy storm.
I cannot imagine the fear especially with such small children.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 03, 2017:
Special blessings on bus drivers who brings our children and grandchildren home safely!
Jennifer Piccirillo on May 03, 2017:
Thank you for this article. We just had a mild tornado come through our area. I am a bus driver for the North Clarion schools and I drive through cooks forest on my route. I know the storm was right above us when it was going by. Everything turned green and the rain was so heavy it was like a brick wall. I slowly kept going and delivered all the kids home safely. It was the scariest thing I've ever gone through. I don't usually get scared driving my bus. By the grace of God we all got home safe and no one got hurt. There was lines down and lots of down trees. I pray for anyone who goes through bad weather. I pray each day that The Lord keep us safe in our travels getting these kids to and from school. I love what I do and protect these kids at all cost. Thank you again for giving people a place to share and read. Have a Blessed day.
Bridgette eggers on May 02, 2017:
Carla I remember that day all too well I was 12 that horrific day people said we are safe tornados dont hit Valley's but the storm had a mind of its own to this day it starts hailing and I cringe in fear I am about to turn 44 and I remember that fateful day like it was just yesterday
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 02, 2017:
Hi E - thanks for sharing your story and for reading mine. I'm sorry to hear that your mom passed - I'm glad you have good memories of her. My mom sold Avon too and has passed. Their customers become like family to them - how sweet of her to check on them. God bless!
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 02, 2017:
Mandee, you are not alone I'm sure - I see the same reaction from my daughter in her 30's. It's something you never forget. Take care.
Mandee on May 01, 2017:
I was 5 I'm 37 now... That day all I wanted was ice cream from McDonald's in Titusville that's when it started I thought the world was ending.. I still have scar's to this day from what I saw as a small child... A field of cow's completely destroyed.. To this day when they call for watches or warnings I'm stuck outside watching the sky and hoping to never see it again...
E-Kneidel-Miller on May 01, 2017:
I was 12 when the tornados hit that day. I lived in St. Marys and aside from some strong down air burts (not sure what they are called) and the neighbors house loosing a few shingles we were all safe. Though I don't really remember a whole lot about my childhood blocked out lots of memories I remember this like it was yesterday. The days after the storms I remember my mom wanting to go see the damage done in Kane since she sold Avon and had lots of friends up there. It was so scary driving up there with all that damage. We also went down to Parker Dam State Park by Penfield and saw where the tornados cut a path through the trees. It took many many years for them to grow back. Days after the storms we had mail in our front yard from someone in Kane and we live at least 45-60 minutes from there. Why I remember this day was because it was one of the last full days I was able to spend with my mom. She passed away almost 3 months to the day of this on August 29 1985. This day and a day we spent at Kennywood in the middle of June are the last memories I have of her.
On a side note this was a beautiful article, well written. Thank you for telling your story and of others as well. Glad that your family was safe as well as all my moms Avon friends and their family's were that day.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 03, 2016:
Oh, Lee, I do remember that as well and you are correct - the landscape has repaired itself, but at first it was a grim reminder - thank you for your beautiful description of how it felt at the time.
Lee Tea from Erie, PA on June 02, 2016:
Thank you for sharing your story and preserving this part of our NW PA history. Born and raised in Seneca, I'd spend almost a decade driving my dad back and forth from work in Titusville watching the forest grow back before moving to Erie for college. When I was younger riding through Cherrytree with my Dad, I can remember seeing it leveled, and how threatening the sparsely scattered jagged broken trunks looked as if to tell us all "back off, we've been attacked, we're badly hurt, and we're trying to heal here!". I remember the first few summers where you really had to look for those broken jaggers as the leaves from new growth began filling up the landscape. Now when I drive down Rt 8 from Erie to visit family in Oil City I notice you can't even tell anything had happened. I notice, but I don't forget. I was 4, my kid sis had just been born the beginning of May. She's a PhD now. Time marches on, and if someone doesn't place a marker in time, we forget. Thanks again.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 01, 2016:
Donna, how very sad. There was really no warning that day and it appeared to come out of nowhere. Thank you for sharing and God bless!
Donna Zinz Melton on May 31, 2016:
My dad, his wife and my two little brother lived on Sugar Lake Road in Cooperstown...Dad was at work and Betty and my two brothers Adam and Matthew were at home...she barely had time to grab the boys when the tornado hit....their home was leveled somehow by the grace of God they all survived....then the tornado went up the hill behind the house down the other side to which would have been Bradleytown road ...my cousins little brother wasn't so fortunate....he lost his life that day....
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 17, 2016:
Thirty-three tornadoes touched down May 31, 1985 in PA - this map will help sort out their paths: http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/Penns...
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 17, 2016:
Thank you for sharing - other than my own experience, the facts came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Pennsylvania Weather Book. It would be frustrating to be forgotten. As a "master of fact" perhaps you should write something ; )
JS on May 10, 2016:
Nice article and glad everything turned out well for you but I wish you would have gotten your facts correct about the Tionesta area. The tornado did not die out in Tionesta! There were multiple deaths around seven miles on the other side of Tionesta and many homes and camps that were totaled for miles past Tionesta. There was a path from the tornado that ran the length of Forest county. So as you see, the tornado did not die out in Tionesta. I do know these facts are correct because I too along with many relatives, friends and neighbors were effected by this tornado. Yours is not the only article I have read that didn't get the facts right about Forest county. As a master of fact, I have not read any articles or seen any news coverage that remembers us except for a book that was written specifically about Forest county and all that were involved.
Wanda on May 08, 2016:
I was in Brookfield Ohio driving to Hubbard w my daughter who was 8 months old. I grew up in the area and knew it well. I stopped on Collar Price Road and saw debris flying . After it seemed to pass I drove to Chestnut Ridge road and did not recognize it. I was able to drive east amid a lot of trees and a gable end of a roof. I will never forget that day. I saw an older man standing in his driveway looking at the spot his house used to be he seemed to be in shock. I worked for a mobile home repair service and we went on a lot of calls the following day. I have a love of storms but the utmost respect for mother nature's fury.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 08, 2016:
That is always what I had heard growing up - PA had too many hills for tornadoes to do damage or last - this one proved that theory wrong. Glad your dad was ok.
Carrie on May 07, 2016:
This happened before I was born, but everyone always talks about it around here. Ellwood City, PA. My mom told me they had always thought that there were too many hills around here for us to get tornadoes. My uncle and his band were supposed to be playing at the Holiday Inn that night, but it was turned into a shelter. My dad had gotten a new car and was driving back when it started to hail. He was had thought about stopping at a gas station till it stopped but it was crowed. Turns out that gas station was destroyed by the tornado.
Deb06 on May 06, 2016:
I was 10 years old at the time and living on my Grandparents' farm in a trailer with my parents and younger brother near Knox, PA (small town about 1 hour from the Ohio border and north of Pittsburgh). It was very hot and humid that day. After supper, the sky turned this weird greenish color and the stillness was very unsettling--not a bird or insect or anything to be seen. Then the largest hail we had ever seen started falling from the sky followed by a loud roaring noise. Then debries started falling from the sky but lucky for us, the tornado never touched down but just passed over our area. If it had touched down, I doubt any of us would be here now to tell about it. Our trailer didn't have any basement and wouldn't have had time to get to my Grandparents' house which did have a basement. There was no warning until after the storm had passed over then the sirens at the firestation went off and a tornado warning came over the tv.
We found papers in the debries from Mercer in our yard and around the farm. I can remember this day like it was yesterday. I am currently living in Michigan and am a trained weather spotter with National Weather Service in Detroit/Pontiac.
Pam on May 04, 2016:
I remember being with my parents out to eat in the little diner in Centerville. I lived in Centerville by the four corners. The wind and the tunnel i will never forget ...the devestation i will never forget. I remember my parents putting the summer vacation on hold for a little while to help with cleaning up the community and surrounding areas. My parents opened up our home which wasn't needed as the church did it instead. But, I will never forget how scared i was at 18 to even leave the side of my parents for days, months and years afterwards. How even today a watch scares me but i have had to learn to keep it inside so my kids are not living in fear like i do. The memories will be with me always.
I remember how scared i was to be sitting inside of a pickup truck riding it out. Because my dad did not want us sitting inside a cement block building incase it was hit.
Carol on May 04, 2016:
I lived in Cooperstown, Pa. then me and a friend at the time was at Jim's but back then it was Browns supermarket the lights went out in there and it was like dark outside I said to my friend that we needed to get back to the Trailer park where we lived at the time so we got in the car and headed home but when I looked back the tornado was right behind us I told her to step on it just as we pulled in to Lepley's trailer park it turned and went up over the hill thank god and after that day when the siren would go off I would grab my two girl's and head to the spring house in the hill side behind the trailer park my youngest would freak out every time the sirens would go off even after we moved to Fl. but we are back in the area now living in a trailer with no basement what was I thinking lol . And you can't find anything about this day on TV. or on the net why is that ?
Daniel Cook on May 04, 2016:
I remember the day as though it was yesterday. I was 5 uears old at the time just outside jamestown pa. My father was part of a cb radio club out of jamestown when it happened we spent the next few days helping the affected citizens by hauling donated items such as water, blankets ect. I will never forget the devistation i seen and often re-visit Atlantic pa to pay respect to those who lost their lives. Even all these years later the area still shows it deadly scares from that day.
jIM on May 04, 2016:
Was driving north on I 79 out of Pittsburgh that day with a tractor trailer rig. remember it being so windy that it would lift my empty trailer off the ground. God must have been looking after me for I never flipped over. By the time I got home in Clarion Pa. my Army reserve unit in Franklin Pa. called me out to go on a body search and rescue at the cherry tree trailer park. Was there for two days. The first on body search and the second day on road guard to keep the looters out of the affected area.
Catharine on May 03, 2016:
I was 11. Lived in Saegertown. My dad worked for the phone company, what would become Alltel. I remember the haze, the noise and the hail. Thankfully the funnel jumped and missed us. But my most dramatic memory - Dad's crew had been putting up lines in Atlantic and the surrounding areas so the next day we drive down there so he could check on things. There was a grave stone 4feet across drug the length of a football field and pieces of straw driven into telephone pole. It was terror inducing to think of a storm with that kind of power. I'll never forget !!!
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 03, 2016:
Linda - thank you so much for sharing- how terrifying!
Linda Harding on May 03, 2016:
I believe that this is the storm that came through Ohio. I remember my dad going down 416 at over 90 mph. We were sitting in the back of a station wagon watching the tornado clouds behind us. He got us back home safely and we ran to the dugout in the side of our hill. My dad usually watches the storms. He saw two smaller tornadoes spin out of a bigger one. It is the only time dad came back in the dugout with us and pulled the door shut. The water in the dugout drain came up the drain then bubbled and went back down as the tornado left. The road my parents live on is called Schumacher Hollow but due to the way it is curved it is nicknamed Tornado Hollow.
peter alexander on March 16, 2016:
I remember this well- we lived in Sarver at that time- one of the the tornados literally jumped over our farm- we did not realize the sverity until the national guard stopped at the house to see how we were. Nice story.
Jen on June 02, 2015:
Can't believe its been 30yrs. I was 9. My grandma lived next door & called, telling my mom to look out the window at the funnel in the sky. The sky was an eerie yellow and the tornado sounded like a freight train. We huddled in the hallway of our mobile home in Penn Twp with my mom sheltering my sisters & I, while praying to God. To this day, I am so thankful to God that our lives were spared but grieve for those whose tragically weren't.
Paul on May 31, 2015:
Living near Utica, I remember the aftermath more than the storm. Debris was raining down from the sky. My father picked up a piece of cardboard which had floated down behind the barn. The mailing label on it was Bumbo's Vermillion Ford- Newton Falls, Ohio. We knew it was bad!
kay on May 31, 2015:
I have family in Tionesta. We went up to visit in August. It was shocking to see the devastation 3 months later. I cannot imagine what it must have been like right after it was over. Our family survived that day, but others had great losses.
Gina Radakovich Vokoun on May 31, 2015:
I was living in CT at the time but my parents Jane and Will lived in Deterville and had my 80 yr old Grandmother. I remember my Mom saying Grandma started praying and the tornado turned its direction. Carla, maybe thatsbthe left turn you remember.
I feel sad that you all had to experience such a disaster. My heart sank as I saw the destruction just a few weeks later. I remember that one area by the creek (high banks???) The always shady area was then drenched by sunlight. I didnt even recognize the area. Many blessings to all the survivors and may God rest all the souls that were taken from their loved ones.
Kevin on May 16, 2015:
My wife and I were living in a trailer park in West Middlesex PA with our 2 sons. I had just resigned my job in Warren Ohio and my boss was kind enough to drive me home as I had been commuting in a company vehicle . We were on I80 an could see the funnel cloud going thru West Middlesex and heading up the hill towards the trailer park we lived in I was very scared fortunately for us but unfortunately for others the tornado touched down about a half mile south of our home and all was well. However the reason I resigned from that job was I had gotten a much better offer from a company in Virginia and in 1987 they moved me to so we have been thru hurricanes Andrew and Francis and Jean and Katrinia ( yes it hit South Florida before it hit New Orleans) and Wilma.
Ann on May 07, 2015:
I was at work that afternoon in Saegertown, we could see the sky it was a strange color of yellow and watched from a distance. A coworker had recieved a call from his girlfriend telling him that a tornado had gone thru and hit the trailer park I lived in, was scared not knowing if I had a home to go to and my family was out of town at the time, but I was lucky it didn't hit our trailer park, it went across the street then crossed back passed it. I was lucky, but so many others weren't. When my mother came home we went out and saw the damage and it really made me thank God that we were spared, and prayed for those that weren't .
Cathy Marshall/Lampert on May 07, 2015:
My father, David Marshall Sr and brother, David Marshall Jr were at a trailer behind the trailer court. They were going to start building à basement for a house that the family was building. The young mother rushed from the trailer to warn of the approaching tornado. My brother told her to get her child from the trailer, she got back to trailer and tornado hit. My father who was standing in doorway of the garage, had the garage fall on him. My brother was throw on a sandpile and the young mother and child lost their lives. My father had severe injuries, two broken arms, a crushed hip, broken ankle, and an imprint of a cement block on his chest from debris pinning to the block. He was in hospital till June 15th. My brother had minor injuries. Waiting at the hospital to find out what had happened to them was torture. My father said looking up into the center of the tornado was as in movies, everything swirling around. His health was never the same and he passed 5 years later. He always praised the rescue personal who rescued them.
Melody on May 07, 2015:
I will never forget that day. We left our trailer and went to a friends house which was actually in line for the storm. My baby was 1 month old and they didn't have a basement, so I put her in a closet and closed the door. I was afraid the wind itself would take her. Very good article.
Debbie on May 07, 2015:
I remember that day. I was 11 years old and lived in Volant, Pa at the time. Our home was less than 10 minutes from either Grove City or Mercer. The weather was hot, humid, cloudy, and very windy. My Mom called for us kids (5 of us) to come into the enclosed porch. She was anxious and nervous, and we were picking up on vibes, not sure exactly what was going on. The sky turned a combination of yellowish-green-grey color. The winds died down and it got deathly quiet. Not a sound. The winds picked back up strong, and we all rushed to the basement. It sounded like a freight train overhead. What felt like an eternity was really just a few minutes and it was done. No one was hurt and the damage was minimal. A tree uprooted from the winds hit our roof and rolled off onto my Dad's Suburban. That tornado spared us, but moved on to Wheatland, causing severe damage. To this day, storms make me queasy...always will.
Kate on May 06, 2015:
Carla-thank you for writing your story. We lived in Edinboro, I had a 3 year old and twin babies 6 months old. We never went to the basement. I kept watching the weather out the window but had to go through the garage to get to the basement and thought it was probably just like every other spring storm. We drove around that evening to see the storm damage but we weren't even aware how bad Albion was hit at the time. I think how different any of our lives could have turned out had we lived in the next town over.
stacy on May 05, 2015:
I was four months old when it hit Jamestown pa ...and I remember stories that my mom would tell me .....like one thing she told me that my grandma was chaseing our grill....threw the yard and mom yelling at her to get inside......or my mom mother calling from Greenville saying get to basement there a tornado coming across the lake....my mom put my sister me and the dog to the basement and turned off dinner she was making....I remember her telling me my uncle tried to get up the hill but they told him he had to walk to see if we were ok...my dad was working Sharon steel at that the time...we lost trees but thankful we were all safe
Rachael Ferrara on May 05, 2015:
I was 5 years old when this happened and I remember it like it was yesterday, almost a static build up that raised the hair on the back of your neck, my mom just got off work and wanted to jump in shower, told me to watch the sky and call for her if it changed color, or started to rain. I watched the sky turn from dark like a storm cloud, to bright like a yellowish color, to and orange - brown color, I called for her just as she was getting dressed, the wind was picking up and went from humid n hot to almost chilly she scooped up my baby sister, grabbed my hand as the sirens went off, to warn us, we lived in a trailer. She drove to the bowling alley that had a basement, in a matter of two minutes as hail started. I was in bare feet, in a basement that was flooding up to my knees in water until the all clear! I will never forget the sounds of babies, and other small children scared and crying while water rushed, and hail n wind banged the roof,and sides of building, as well as a chilling buzz, or train type sound. And the next day I was actually more scared as I realized how much damage had happened, I'm not sure where we drove through, but the poor dead cows!
Lise on May 05, 2015:
I remember it well, my husband was a firefighter and was called to assist in the search and rescue in Wheatland. He was gone for several days and won't speak about what he saw. He sent me to his parents with our daughter who wasn't even a year old where it was safer. I remember the Orange sky and the eerie quietness and knowing something was going to happen.
Patti on May 05, 2015:
It was one of those days that you will always remember where you were. I was in 11th grade and was at an end-of-the-year sports banquet for school. We don't live far from Mercer, and the F5 tornado that day lifted south of there. And I remember my grandparents were camping near Jamestown and saw the tornado that hit there. My grandma said it was the most helpless feeling, to be in a campground with a tornado so close. Luckily they survived.
peggie hannon sellers on May 05, 2015:
I was living in Meadville at the time....driving to my hometown of SR. Passed geneva cochranton exit only a few minutes before it hit the bridge area. My roomate was at the country club watching trees and telephone poles go "dancing" past.
Norma Christie on May 04, 2015:
We lived in Butler back then.Dad worked at US Steel in Saxonburg.Took him 3 hrs to make that trip.We were supposed to go camping with friends that weekend. My step mother and her best friend worked at the hosp then.She was off but not her friend that night. That's one night I'll never forget.
Damon on May 04, 2015:
I was only 8 years old that Spring day, but remember everything from that day and the next. I was with my dad on our way home to Ellwood City from West Virginia. We had made this trip several times before and each time, I'd fall asleep. But not this time. I could tell something sinister was brewing in those skies as a huge flag swirled in circles like never before. We made our way into Darlington before we saw the first effects of this terrifying storm. As we made it through New Galilee and into Koppel, it was evident that something disastrous had happen. At this point, I was terrified and praying that our house was still there and my brothers, sister and mom were ok. Thank the Lord that the funnel cloud stayed 3 miles southwest of our house or it may have been just my dad and I growing up. My aunt's house wasn't as lucky, but they survived and that's what matters. They lived less than a 1/4 of a mile from the Spotlight 88 Drive-in. The next day, we went to observe the damage and couldn't get anywhere near what use to be Jamesway. We made our way through debris and fallen trees on some back roads and the site was like something you'd see in a movie. Buildings that were there less than 24hrs. ago were no more, cars crushed and on their roofs, debris thrown everywhere and so on. To this day, if I even sense there's a possibility of a tornado, I'm watching the sky and the radar. God bless those who were there and lived to tell their story and to those who lost a loved one that day. I'll never forget!
Melissa on May 04, 2015:
I lived in Penfield at the time - we had the 2 tornados hit our town just before they merged together. If my sister wouldn't have insisted on going back to the garage for cigarettes, we would have been right in the middle of it.
Cathy on May 04, 2015:
We lived in Oil City. I was 12. That day we were rushed to my grandparents on Washington Ave. And my parents did what they always did during disasters got in the Salvation Army Canteen and went to fed rescue workers and victims. They taught me always to put others first.
Jen on May 03, 2015:
I was nearly 4 years old and I remember it vividly. The town of Albion was devastated by the storm. Rest in peace to those lost and bless the survivors.
Samantha on May 03, 2015:
I was only 9 years old at the time of these storms, but I remember them vividly. We lived in Beaver Falls, PA. We were celebrating Memorial Day with our family, had opened our pool that morning. We were outside swimming and enjoying being together when the sky turned bizarre colors and the wind started going crazy. I remember the pine trees that line my parents yard bending over to almost touch the ground. The entire family began rushing around trying to recover the pool and pack up all of the outdoor items when everything just stopped. Pure silence. It was so scary. At that moment, my mom said, "a tornado is hitting somewhere close" as my aunt realized that her youngest daughter, my cousin, who was about 13 or 14, was at the roller skating rink on route 18. We packed in the car racing to get to Honewood Roller Rink and must have been following the storm because there was so much debri and complete devastation. I remember driving past a leveled Jamesway store and seeing a clear path of destruction in the valley. Luckily, no one was injured at the roller rink which was right down the road from the roller rink. The twister had turned and went on to take out Spot light 88 drive in and proceeded to the north. I will never forget that day, even as young as I was.
shannon on May 03, 2015:
That was the year that I will never forget there was 5 that touch down at the same time one hit Centerville Pa. It killed my dads best friend it carried him through 6 homes and several trees I am glad that you all made it safe God Bless every one that goes through this kind of desaister
GeeGee on May 03, 2015:
I was 33 days old. My grandparents were unable to reach my mother to warn her so she was changing my diaper when a tornado came past the window. It tore my grandfather's orchard out by the roots and carved a trail through the forest, but never touched the house. Of course I don't have memories of this, but my grandmother tells me about it every year.
Jennifer on May 03, 2015:
My mom helped organize babysitting for those affected by the tornados that hot Atlantic. I remember a story of a woman holding up a cement wall as it began to fall on top of her child. The Amish began rebuilding farms the next day.
Jenn on May 03, 2015:
Lived in Kennedy's trailer park and just by the grace of a God I was not there just took a friends little brother home . My mom and two sisters were there though .... Mom had sever head trauma , broken bones and injuries didn't think she would make it but she is alive and well today... One sister broke her back and another fractured her leg severely .... All alive and well today !! I have a new appreciation for thunderstorms and wind!!
God is awesome and by His grace emotional and physical healing has taken place!!!!
Bev on May 03, 2015:
I lived on old Glade Mill Road in the Cooperstown area and I remember the roof of our barn being an odd color,like yellowish, and everything was so still, not a leaf moved. It missed our house by about a half a mile and when we went out afterward to see the damage I couldn't believe that buildings that were on one side of the highway were now across the road. Houses that had no roofs. Total devastation. Stories of swimming pools being sucked out of the ground, barns gone. Would not have believed it had I not seen it.
Chris on May 02, 2015:
My grandparent and aunt were killed in the tornado in tionesta. This took our house and the farm we were farming. Very vivid memories even as an eight year old!!
Theresa Evans on May 02, 2015:
I grew up on Lamberton Road, near Cooperstown. In 1985, I was in Alaska (with a husband in the Military).
My parents and sister still live in the area, and I remember the shock I felt when I heard the news. My sister had been walking to a friend's house, got there just before it hit. A good friend lost his house, that sheltered a family of five or six. They were camping at Cooks Forest and came home to a total loss.
Tornadoes were not a threat in Alaska, but for the last 16 years I've lived in Missouri--smack dab in tornado alley. My daughter lives with her family (and my three grandchildren) in OKC. So we have had to learn to train for the worst and hope for the best. My husband is currently Deputy Manager of our counties EMA Dept.
It amazes me to read the differences in advance warning and communications from then to now. These tornadoes of 1985 would likely have a better outcome if they were to happen today, but I'm still shocked at their number, range and devastation.
Has the Weather Channel ever done documentary coverage of these tornadoes and the stories of the survivors? I knew of the day, of course. But it is informative to hear so many firsthand accounts. That type of history should also be preserved for the sake of future generations.
Eric on May 02, 2015:
I was 5 years old at the time, but I still remember it well. I lived just north of Corry, and the tornado went thru our neighborhood less than a half a mile from our house. This was the same tornado that had swept thru Albion 50 minutes prior. My Dad had a dairy farm two miles away, and the tornado went between our house and the farm. My dad was milking the cows at the farm when the weather started to change. He called the weather bureau on the phone (we didn't have a weather radio at the time) and they said there was a tornado warning for our area. About that time he heard a roaring sound in the distance and then came the golfball sized hail. He called my Mom and told her to head to the basement with my older sisters and myself. We were getting the golfball sized hail at our house, too. My Dad jumped in the car and headed for home. He had two choices of routes to take. The dirt road was only 2 miles, but it went through the valley so he chose to take the longer route which was closer to 3 miles, but it went along the hilltop so he could watch the storm in the distance. He drove about 90 miles an hour thru the path of the storm to make it home. As he drove he could see the tornado crest the hilltop on the other side of the valley. As he drove past our neighbors' house, their garage collapsed into the backyard, and the birch tree in our front yard fell over just as he was pulling into our driveway. We were all in the basement at this point, and Dad came down to tell us that the storm had just passed and it was all clear. We went back upstairs to look at the damage. Our neighbors' garage was destroyed, but their house was still standing. There was minimal damage to our house, just some shingles blew off the roof and our TV antenna was twisted. We hopped in the car and drove up the back road thru our neighborhood. Several houses, farms and trailers were destroyed. Fortunately most of our neighbors in those houses and trailers weren't even home at the time. One family was home, but they were able to make it to the basement. Everyone in our neighborhood was so lucky to be alive. My Dad had one friend who was injured when a beam in his garage came down and injured his leg, but other than that he was ok.
It's strange that I can remember that day so well, yet I have almost no recollection of what our neighborhood looked like before the tornado destroyed half of it.
Tammy baldwin on May 02, 2015:
I am from Kane pa I never under stood what was going on that day we was standing out side looking around trying to see the tornado the noice was loud the wind was bad we had no idea what was about to happen to family and friends we were safe but only be the grace of god it hit right behind our house my neighbor was killed a cousin by marriage was killed a lot of my friends and people lot there homes and all the owned the schools were hit hard my ex sister in law had to out run the tornado with her car thank god she made it out of the way her car was picked up and down afew times no power for along time curfews every night for along time it looked like aboom went off we lost afew in Kane that day but it could have been worse Kane was rebuilt and we went on I don't think anyone will forget that day
Theresa on May 02, 2015:
I was 19 at the time and lived in Jamestown, PA. We were outside because my dad got a new truck that day. The only warning we had was grey cloudy skies, a faint rumble of thunder and approx 5 goofball sized hailstones that fell. I was standing under a tree petting our dog when I heard a cracking noise above me. That is when all heck broke loose. It was instantaneous. The wind was out of control, it was just.....different. It happened so fast, we didn't have time to get to the house. We took refuge in our garage, huddling under the doorframe. We heard exactly what they say...it sounded like a freight train. Problem was we had no idea where the tornado was headed. For all we knew, it was on top of us. Even though we never had one before, we had no doubt. My father, mother, brother, sister and myself huddled together praying "The Lord's Prayer and several Hail Marys. My mom yelled to my Dad, "oh My God, it is a tornado". We then saw it through our garage door approx a half mile away. It looked like a scene from The Wizard of Oz. Debris, whole trees, roots and all flew into the funnel. It seemed like a lifetime but was only a matter of seconds. god saved me that day; the only damage we received that day was the tree that I had been standing under a few minutes before had fallen. The damage we saw that day was unbelievable, but neighbors helped neighbors. We took a ride up the hill towards Adamsville where the damage was extensive. Whole houses were completely obliterated. In the cemetery, tombstones were uprooted, cracked and overturned. One area showed trees seemingly cut in half, but the bark was completely scraped off and twisted around the bases of the trees. Pencil thin sticks could be seen sticking out of trees. There was one house in Adamsville where the tornado destroyed the house and the in-ground pool was just an empty shell. Down the hill from Adamsville was the little town of Atlantic, or what was left of it. Nit was just....gone. I thank God for sparing my family that day and pray for the families who didn't make it. To this day, I am ever watchful of the skies. The only weird thing that day was if you looked at the skies, there seemed to be different layers of clouds which we're going in different directions and before it hit, Complete silence. Not the sound of a bird nor insect. Complete silence. May God Bless everyone who endured this tragedy.
Amy Sue Grazier Walls on May 02, 2015:
I remember this so well...My son was exactly two weeks old. My mom and I sat on our front porch in Titusville and watched the tornados all day long while my son slept on the couch, diaper bag packed beside him in case we had to go.
My son slept the whole time and woke up after it was all over.
Peggy Grant from PA on May 02, 2015:
I grew up in North Apollo PA, and I remember that day well.. I was 11 yrs old and my nephew and I were playing in my dads car, pretending like we were driving..
My dad yelled for us to get in the house and I could hear what sounded like a train in the sky. My mother rushed us into the basement as my dad made sure my brothers got inside, ( he later told us that my teenage brothers feet lifted off the ground as he grabbed his hand)
As we all gathered into the basement, I was so scared of not knowing would happen next, then i heard everything sliding across the kitchen floor above..I remember hearing my mom said "Oh My God, its taking everything above us" It seemed to last forever for a child my age, although in reality it was only a few minutes..
My dad went up stairs first and we followed, The house stood pretty well besides some damage here and there, a large beam from the porch flew up and came down through the roof of my bedroom, and everything in the kitchen was all on one side up against the all.. table , chairs, cabinet, everything! It tore out two humongous nut trees that stood in our front yard. leaving them lay in the yard with a huge ball of roots exposed, However compared to the damage of the mobile home park, not far away, we were extremely lucky..
We drove out to the mobile home park , it was called Edge-wood at the time, to see if we could help, and I remember seeing something straight out of a night mare.. there was nothing but a huge square of demolished trailers not one left visible..( I don't recall hearing about anyone dying or even getting hurt but I'm sure that is not something my parents would have said in front of me.) I just remember seeing the horrible disaster, and seeing my mom with tears running down her face, and feeling so sad for those who lost everything,
We drove around town for what seemed hours, getting in and out of the truck, my dad whom was a huge strong man , and a retired coal miner, was helping those whom he could help..
I will never ever forget that day and every storm takes me to the TV, looking for tornado warnings... On one or two occasions I have sat in out basement with our kids just to be safe, until the storm passed....(Its no big deal to them, as our basement is finished with a family room so its not the old fruit cellar, or coal cellar, that ours was when I was little) so they just kinda take some snacks and hang out down there.. . I will NEVER live in a trailer if I can help it, especially after seeing how that entire park was lost in an instant..
I'm glad you and your children made it through that horrible day, I couldn't begin to imagine the terror you felt running for safety..I pray We never have to go through such a thing ever again..God Bless!
julz on May 02, 2015:
i grew up in cochranton. i was 15. i stood in the street downtown, staring up at the funnel that ripped out part of our town, then atlantic, off to proceed in tearing albion off of the map. that storm messed up a huge amount of our small communities. i volunteered at the fire department, with many of our neighbors. the hall was packed with homeless friends and their families. it was sad and scary, yet, it was beyond words in how mother earth's power felt. sorry for all of your losses. glad to be here, and have gotten something positive out of it all. God bless.
Ray Barr on May 01, 2015:
I was living in centerville that tragic day. Was 18 at the time. My parents property consisted of 18 acres, most of which was hardwood. Was home with my youngest sister (Dee) and a friend Scott Pearson. I, for what ever reason, stepped outside only to see the storm overhead. Had only seconds to get ourselves in the basement before the skies above started roaring. A moment or two later, dead silence. Will never forget the devastation. We only lost a pet dog, all our hardwood leveled, and an island in our pond was uplifted on its side. The house stayed in tact by the grace of God. Not sure how. Many others in our community, not so fortunate. For all those who lost family and friends, my heart and prayers go out to you.
pamw on May 01, 2015:
I live in Hydetown and lived here then also. I remember that day just like it was yesterday. My mother, my best friend, my month old twins and myself were waiting out the storm when all of the sudden everything outside became very dark and quiet. It was like the whole world just stood still for a matter of a minute or so. When this happened it felt like something bad happened and sure enough it did!!...The tornado had hit Centerville which was just over the hill from where we lived. We were at this same time waiting for my brother and his family from their house in Franklin to come for a visit. As they were traveling threw Cherrytree two tornados merged together and became one massive one and was following them right up route 417 and crossed the road behind them. He said it was all he could do to out run it in his van while watching it rip to pieces the trailer park in his rear view mirror. Once they got a safe distance away from it the kids got out of the van to pick up and bring to our house with them hail stones the size of golf balls that had been hitting the van as they had been driving throughout the storm. I also had a family member hurt in the storm that hit Cooperstown. He was one of the two children that was on the news reports from Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. He was in a trailer with his little brother and a friend. They seen the twister coming right at them with nowhere to go so he took his brother under a table and laid on top of him. He saved his little brother but in the process his back was broken. Luckily he came out of it all ok and his brother was fine too. That was a night that none of us will ever forget as long as we live....and the season starts again!
J55smlyred95 on May 01, 2015:
We lived in Kane,Pa that year, our house was badly damaged,but we were all safe !!! Got the tail end just up our street a few hundred yards houses were leveled ,thank God no one on our street died !! Our boys were 11 months & 6 years !!! Our 6 year old seen the trees across the street start to uproot just as my husband & I grabbed both boys & headed for the basement !!! All was over in a matter of minutes,but the fear lasts a lot longer especially when the storm season starts !!
Jess meeker on May 01, 2015:
My grandparents lived in Atlantic they seemed to be ok afterwards but I remember visiting and going to the church and helping feed all the people that had been affected. I use to visit every summer
Cathy on May 01, 2015:
i was in the Cherrytree trailer park that day, in the trailer with my lab. We both made it out but with a life time of back surgeries and pain. But to God be the glory alive. But lost several neighbors sadly.
Angela on May 01, 2015:
This was the evening before my 6th birthday and my gramma and I were baking my Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake when the wind started whipping it sounded like a train coming near us.. the sky turned BRIGHT yellow for a bit then to a yellowish green.. we hid down in the celler for about a half hour until my gramma thought it was safe.. come to find out it hit the other side of the hill behind our house.. we lived outside of Emporium PA and it took out the side hill between Keating Summit and Port Allegany.. I remember driving by there the next day and being on awe of the damage I seen.. it had to have been a good 10-15 years later before the trees in that same spot started growing back because every time we would go past there it was always a blatant reminder of that evening!
rick on May 01, 2015:
Lived in Sharon at the time...from the west hill we could see and hear the small town of Wheatland being devistated...along with the path that tore thru hermitage on to mercer....I will remember that Fri. evening in may forever....what started out as a beautiful day..turned into an ugly evening.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 01, 2015:
David, thank you for sharing and thank you your service during this time of tragedy. It certain left a lasting impression on all who saw.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 01, 2015:
Russell, yes, the tornado changed the face of the landscape. Thank you for sharing your very descriptive story.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on May 01, 2015:
SB: So sad to hear. It would be normal to still feel fearful.
David Getway on May 01, 2015:
I was a senior at Sharpsville when this struck .I was also in The national guard we got activated a couple hours after the storm I will never forget the things I saw
Russell Morrison on May 01, 2015:
I jus5 turned five years old and lived in cranberry township l. We were in franklin that day and i remember the sky tyrning to an odd green color, the air was hot but a coolness was dropping Fast. My father was out in the subaroo and my mother, oldet brother, my younger sistet and mys3lf were in the store. I remember my father pulling up front rral fast blaring the horn yelling for us to get out there in the car. When we came out the wind was whipping, rain was not falling but going from the left to the right. And hearing the most horrific lowd sound i ever heard, sounded like A billion bees flying. Got the car i of course sitting in the station waggons back end, remember my father flooring the vehicle and myself looking at a wall of twisting grey ness, watching small pumpkin sized ice balls fall from the sky crashing to the ground. Watching behind us in the distance this massive grey wall thing ripping thinhs up off the ground flinging them out and away ad a child does with small toy cars. I haf no odea what i was looking at. I remember going to tionesta the next day and seeing the local ice cream store its sign all bent and my parents and grandparents went all around the next few days helping find people, helping find their lost loved ones. I will never forget that part of my life when ome tornado became three and one chased us for what seemed like forever. To this day u can still drive through the forset area of tionesta and still see the scar those tornadoes left.
SB on May 01, 2015:
The teenage boy in your story was a childhood friend of mine. Our families used to vacation together and had Ben to Florida a few months prior. To this day I am still fearful of tornado warnings and watches.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 01, 2014:
Donna and Deanna - I am sorry for your loss. It was horrific day that came on without notice. Thank you for sharing and take great care. cjbehr
Deanna on June 01, 2014:
I was in that tornado too :( My mom was one of the ones killed as well :( Thankfully I am doing alright now. Tim I know all too well about being frightened by the storms. There with you even now at 31 years old. We were in Saxonburg.
Donna on June 01, 2014:
I lost my friend thatsp day in Kennedy Trailor Park in cranesville pa , she was 71/2 months pregnant and had a 31/2 year old son he was in a coma after that ,he died Feb 6;1993, it's amazing what a difference a day makes,when Butch husband/father left for work that morning he had a wife & a kid 1/2 :-) ... By 5:30 they were all gone... My heart still hearts when I think about what he went through
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 01, 2014:
Randy, that's crazy! Tim - so glad your family was safe. These are experiences we will never forget! Thanks for reading, guys!
Tim on June 01, 2014:
I was actually in a trailer ...from my understanding, I think it was in the park that was leveled my mom knows better than I do, the trailer I was in had a basement but even then we were not so lucky because the whole trailer caved into the basement.
Randy on June 01, 2014:
Remember that night vividly... Turned cb radio in pickup ttuck to channel 9 and had never heard so many reports of storms, tornadoes and damage as I did that night. Lived north of Grove City and we had school textbooks from Hubbard Ohio in our yard (about 40 miles away).
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on June 01, 2014:
Karen - that story always haunted me. It could of been anyone of us living in a mobile home at the time. Tim - I am so sorry to hear of your story. You were the same age as my daughter. How impacting this even was on your life. God bless you both for sharing.