Weather Stories

Reflecting on tornado outbreak on Memorial Day 2019 in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On this day in 2019, a significant outbreak of tornadoes happened across the Midwest and Ohio Valley in the midst of what was an ongoing, much larger outbreak of severe weather in the second half of May 2019.

Memorial Day on May 27, 2019, started on a mild and muggy note for much of Indiana. The state was coming off the heels of what was a warm and sunny Indianapolis 500 the day before. A warm front was sitting in southern Indiana during the morning hours before it trotted northward early Monday afternoon.

This warm front would set the stage for higher amounts of unstable air. There was also strengthening flow aloft, and in conjunction with the warm front, this led way to a strong setting of wind shear. When you talk of a threat for severe weather in Indiana, we typically have higher shear and low amounts of unstable air. May 27, 2019, however, would prove to be different of course. With the warm front camping out in far northern Indiana through mid-afternoon, trouble would soon brew.

Due to the aforementioned components in place, the Storm Prediction Center would place a risk for strong tornadoes (EF2+) from a Lafayette-Kokomo line and points northwest. Activity got under way early in the day as an EF3 passed near Cantril, Iowa. Stormy weather would soon move into Illinois and northwestern Indiana as several weak tornadoes transpired by early Monday afternoon. The first tornado to touch down in Indiana of the day was an EF0 just south of Dyer.

A lull in tornadic activity then occurred before a set of supercells popped off in northern Indiana Monday evening. A brief EF1 then touched down just south of Peru in Bunker Hill right after 7:30 p.m. By 8 p.m., a large and dangerous EF3 tornado was ongoing near the communities of Macy and Akron. Over the next 90 minutes, six more tornadoes would touch down in Indiana, and they were in the following order:

  • Pendleton, Madison County: EF2.
  • Somerset, Grant County: EF2.
  • North Manchester, Wabash County: EF1.
  • Middletown (No. 1), Henry County: EF1.
  • Middletown (No. 2), Henry County: EF1
  • Montpelier, Wells County: EF3.

Despite the intensity of the tornadoes in our state, Indiana had no fatalities and only three injuries. Unfortunately, other areas were not as lucky. Western Ohio would soon end up in tornadic trouble.

High unstable air values and strong shear had also built up in western Ohio throughout the day, and this kept supercell action rolling into the nighttime hours. Several more intense tornadoes would be spawned after sunset just west of the Indiana-Ohio state line. The strongest tornado of the entire day would wind up being a large and violent EF4 tornado that tore into the north side of Dayton. A rare tornado emergency was prompted for Dayton due to the catastrophic tornado. Despite tearing an 18-mile path of destruction, no one was killed.

There was unfortunately one fatality from an EF3 tornado that struck near Celina, Ohio, before the Dayton tornado unfolded.

Even though there was one death on May 27 overall, the death toll could’ve been much higher. Timely warning issuance and quick responses to those warnings to take shelter saved many lives on May 27.

Overall, there were 59 officially rated tornadoes on May 27 with one tornado that stayed unrated. This outbreak was in conjunction with a major and long lasting severe weather outbreak that lasted from May 17-30th in 2019. There would be 400 tornadoes confirmed in the entire mid to late May 2019 outbreak.