1985 Northeastern Ohio Tornadoes
An outbreak of 41 tornadoes, including 14 killer tornadoes, struck northeastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and southern Ontario on Friday, May 31, 1985. This region had never experienced such a large outbreak of tornadoes. With 11 dead in Trumbull County, this was Ohio’s deadliest tornado outbreak since the Xenia Tornado of 1974.
Thunderstorms developed near Cleveland at 4 PM and grew explosively. Several tornadoes touched down between 5 PM and 6 PM in Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties and traveled into Pennsylvania.
The most famous Ohio tornado of this outbreak touched down in Portage County at about 6:30 PM and cut a 47 mile path through Newton Falls, Niles, and Hubbard, before entering Pennsylvania. This was a violent F5 tornado, the only F5 in the United States in 1985, and became the deadliest Ohio tornado in 11 years.
Years of tornado preparedness paid off in Newton Falls. Members of the Public Safety Reserve watched the sky from the top of City Hall. The tornado was spotted heading for Newton Falls and tornado sirens wailed for 60 seconds before the storm struck the city. About 400 homes were destroyed or severely damaged but there were no deaths in Newton Falls. The greatest destruction occurred as the violent tornado passed through Niles, destroying homes, apartments, businesses, and industries. There were 11 deaths in Niles and northern Hubbard Township. Other tornadoes later in the evening caused extensive damage in Licking, Coshocton, and Columbiana Counties.
- Schmidlin, Thomas W. and Schmidlin, Jeanne A. Thunder in the Heartland: A Chronicle of Outstanding Weather Events in Ohio. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1996.