April 1, 1998 - F3 Tornado in Hanover County, Virginia

On the evening of April 1, 1998 an F3 Tornado touched down near the town of Coatesville in Hanover County. This storm developed from a long-lived isolated supercell which had tracked over portions of Goochland and Louisa counties before spawning the F3 tornado at 7:00 P.M. in the vicinity of the town of Coatesville. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued at 6:45 P.M. and upgraded to a Tornado warning at 6:50 P.M. Despite the nearly 10 minutes lead time for the warning, there were 2 fatalities in association with this tornado.

The F3 tornado was considered the strongest Tornado to touch down within the Wakefield County Warning area since the F4 Tornado which devastated portions of Petersburg on August 6, 1993.

The images below are from the Wakefield WSR-88D and run from 6:37 P.M. EST through 7:19 P.M. EST 1 April 1998. There is a base reflectivity image and a storm relative motion image for each time.

*Click images to enlarge.*

Base Reflectivity (left) and Storm Relative Velocity (right) images from 6:37 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. An isolated thunderstorm is moving out of Louisa County into Hanover County. A mesocyclone was detected just west of the Louisa/Hanover County line. Note the adjacent green and red colors indicating motions toward the radar and away from the radar, respectively.

Base Reflectivity (left) and Storm Relative Velocity (right) images from 6:43 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. There is some hint of a very broad hook echo along the Louisa/Hanover County line. The mesocyclone has shrunken in diameter suggesting a strengthening mesocyclone. Notice the green and red colors are brighter, indicating stronger inbound and outbound motions.

Base Reflectivity (left) and Storm Relative Velocity (right) images from 6:49 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. A very broad hook is still indicated, but is somewhat ill-defined. The mesocyclone is still strong but it has expanded. Note the strong rotation is associated with the broad hook, not the small appendage on the southwest edge of the storm.

Base Reflectivity (left), Storm Relative Velocity (middle) and Storm Relative Velocity Cross Section images from 6:55 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. These images were taken within 5 minutes of when the torndo destroyed parts of Coatesville, VA. The broad hook was still apparent as it approached the Hanover/Caroline County line. There was no WSR-88D detected mesocyclone but very strong rotation could still be seen. The strong rotation could also be seen below 7,000 Feet in the cross section.

Base Reflectivity (left) and Storm Relative Velocity (middle) and Storm Relative Velocity Cross Section images from 7:01 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. The broad hook crossed into Caroline County and another small appendage is west of the hook. The strong rotation seemed to be trying to split into two rotations, one rotation in the broad hook, and the other in the smaller appendage. An F3 tornado was occurring between 6:55 P.M. EST and this time, now likely weakening as the rotation tried to split. The rotation within the broad hook had deepened to nearly 14,000 Feet, seen in the cross section, but wasn't completely vertically correlated, illustrated by the slanted nature of the circulation.

Base Reflectivity (left) and Storm Relative Velocity (right) images from 7:07 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. Two appendages were still seen and the rotation became very broad, perhaps as a result of the competing two circulations.

Base Reflectivity (left) and Storm Relative Velocity (right) images from 7:13 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. The two appendages are still apparent as well as two rotations. The rotation associated with the western appendage seems to be dominant at this time.

Storm Relative Velocity image from 7:19 P.M. EST April 1, 1998. At this time, the WSR-88D detected a mesocyclone now that the original broad hook has re-strengthened. However, the western appendage still shows an indication of some separate rotation. The competition between these two circulations after 7:01 P.M. EST may have prevented the tornado from tracking much further, as the tornadic damage ended in southern Caroline County just west of Interstate 95.

Base Reflectivity loop from 6:55 P.M. EST to 7:13 P.M. EST April 1, 1998

Click on image to loop

Storm Relative Velocity loop from 6:49 P.M. to 7:19 P.M. EST April 1, 1998

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Photo Gallery - all photos are copyright 1998 by William T. Hark M.D. and are used with his permission

Click photos to enlarge.

This photo was taken from Charlottesville at around 6:35 P.M. EST, about 35 miles west of the storm. Notice the overshooting top, indicating a very strong updraft.


Large trees were broken on Goshen Rd. also known as State Route 658.


The steeple of St. James Baptist Church was blown off.


This home in Coatesville was heavily damaged.


This was all that was left of the Giles home in Coatesville after the tornado destroyed it, unfortunately resulting in the deaths of Mrs. Giles and her baby boy.


Many trees were down around the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church on State Route 684, causing some damage to the church.


The Beverly Restaurant on Route 1 was heavily damaged.


A shed across from the Beverly Restaurant was heavily damaged as well.


A trailer was destroyed near this house on State Route 690, but the house was untouched.


Comments and suggestions, please e-mail Neil Stuart and Hugh Cobb

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