Severe weather season is here, and we're bound to see our fair share of thunderstorms through the course of the summer. While we all accept the possibility of severe thunderstorms as part of the season, there seems to be a perception that the Duluth/Superior area is impervious to tornadoes for some reason. Maybe it's the big hill "shielding us", maybe it's being "up north" and away from what we think of as tornado country, or maybe it's the giant lake on our doorstep. While rare, these dangerous summer phenomenon do appear in our area from time to time.

Funnel clouds have been reported by amateur spotters over Lake Superior and in the harbor, among other areas in the Twin Ports over the years. These funnel clouds are often held at bay by the cold air Lake Superior gives off. Thunderstorms that spawn tornadoes thrive on heat and moisture, and the air above Lake Superior tends to be cooler and dryer than that further inland, which does create a little bit of a "shield effect", but that isn't to say a tornado has never touched down or never will touch down in the Twin Ports.

Storm report data from WeatherUnderground shows several recorded tornado touchdowns in the greater Twin Ports area and through the Northland, with five of them having significant tracks through the region.

1) May 26, 1958

This tornado is the only one to have been recorded in the immediate Duluth/Superior area. It touched down just a couple blocks from our radio station's location on Central Entrance and headed northeast, where its path ended on the east side of the Arnold area. This tornado was recorded as an F-0 tornado with a path about 30 feet wide and just under 7 miles long.

2) June 19, 1967

This F-0 tornado tore the longest path of destruction through the region, touching down southwest of Kettle Lake, and moving 19.4 miles northeast, just missing the city of Cloquet.

3) August 6, 1969

The most severe tornado recorded within a reasonable distance of the Twin Ports was an F-3 tornado that touched down near Boulder Lake Reservoir leaving a 35o foot path extending for 17.2 miles, right to the edge of Two Harbors.

4) June 12, 1976

This particular storm was rated as an F-1 tornado, with a path about 600 feet wide, extending 0.1 miles from the edge of Wrenshall.

5) September 3, 1980

This F-2 tornado touched down just south of Amicon Falls State Park, leaving a 240 foot path that extended northeast 9.9 miles toward the south shore of Lake Superior.