*Update – Latest Tornado Watch issued on Wednesday May 24, 2017*
With a Tornado Watch issued on Sunday July 27, 2014 for the High Country, and a Tornado Warning for Avery County, there were some questions sent in via social media about the history of tornadoes in the High Country.
Before diving into the tornado history, it’s of note that the last Tornado Watch issued for Watauga & Avery occurred on October 14, 2014.
According to records at the National Climatic Data Center there have been three recorded tornadoes in the area.
1965 – Avery County: A F2 tornado was documented on April 9, 1965, measuring in length .50 miles and 300 yards wide. Property damage was recorded at $25.0K
1996 – Watauga County: A F1 tornado was documented on April 20, 1996 around 1pm in the Tweetsie Railroad parking lot. Measuring in length .1 mile and 20 yards wide. 1 of the 2 injuries reported was a man that suffered a broke rib after being lifted into the air by the tornado and then dropped. 16 vehicles were damaged and property damage was recorded at $50.0K
1998 – Zionville (Watauga County): A F0 tornado was documented on June 3, 1998 around 7:17pm, measuring in length 2 miles and 60 yards wide. 3 inch hail was reported along with the high winds. Trees were reported down around Ayersville, blocking several roads, large trees and power lines in Glendale Springs, large trees in Meat Camp, trees in Mt Airy blocking some roads, trees in Reidsville,and trees and tree limbs causing power outages from 3.5 miles west of Zionville to 1 mile south of Todd. Numerous trees were toppled throughout Wilkes County, knocking down some power lines with 3300 people loosing power. A tornado from five and a half miles west to three and a half miles west Zionville in the western part of Watauga County destroyed a few barns and toppled trees and tree limbs causing power outages. Property damage was recorded at $20.0K
Wilkes County has recorded 6 tornadoes, with the most recent on September 5, 2011. Caldwell County has recorded 8 tornadoes, with the most recent on January 11, 2012. *as of July 28, 2014*
A breakdown of the number of Tornado Watches & Warnings per county from January 1, 1986 until July 28, 2014:
Ashe County – 14 watches, 8 warnings
Avery County – 24 watches, 1 warning (July 27, 2014)
Watauga County – 14 watches, O warnings
Wilkes County – 20 watches, 17 warnings
The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center compiled a map of tornadoes by county from 1952-2010. Watauga, Avery, Wilkes and the neighboring Tennessee counties are in the 10 and under category, Ashe is at 0. Click on any map for a larger image.
Map from ustornadoes.com