Columbus and Central Ohio Weather

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A line of gusty thunderstorms rolled through central and southeast Ohio Wednesday night, with winds gusting to 40 mph, and a dramatic lightning display described as strobe lights.

Clusters of severe storms that developed over north-central Ohio in the early evening triggered tornado warnings in eastern Crawford, Richland, Ashland and Holmes counties.

Mammatocumulus clouds over Shelby behind the supercell that spawned an EF1 tornado. (Deran Hamilton)

The National Weather Service in Cleveland confirmed that an EF1 tornado briefly touched down shortly before 9 p.m. along the Wayne/Homes County line, with winds reaching 105 mph. The tornado flattened a barn and caused property damage along a 2.2-mile path south of Shreve.

As the storms formed a squall line ahead of a weak cold front crossing the state through midnight, nearly continuous “sheet lightning” illuminated the muggy night sky.

Two factors likely accounted for the unusual preponderance of cloud-to-cloud strokes. The line was viewed southeast of Columbus looked into the back end. Also, the freezing level (32 degrees Fahrenheit) was measured by a weather balloon around 15,500 feet, meaning ice crystals needed for lightning were at a higher altitude in a tropical air mass.

Sometimes erroneously referred to as “heat lightning” because rain does not fall at the point of the observer, the lightning is associated with a thunderstorm tens of miles away, but the thunder is refracted too far overhead to be heard.

Mammatocumulus clouds over Hudson. (Nora Faul)