Shinnston Tornado of 1944: An unlikely ally

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SHINNSTON, W.Va (WDTV) -- 75 years ago one local town was devastated by a strong storm tornado which destroyed several homes and properties across Harrison County and in Shinnston in particular. On Wednesday, Meteorologist Timothy Albertson spoke with a local historian about what prevented the Shinnston Tornado of 1944 from causing even more havoc.

"This has been obviously the deadliest tornado in the state..." Crystal Wimer of the Harrison County Historical Society said when asked about the historical impact of this tornado.

A major weather event can shape the history of a town, but for Shinnston, the Tornado of 1944 was more destructive than most.

Shinnston, even back then was a small town and was about to become the epicenter of the Appalachian Tornado Outbreak of 1944, which produced at least a dozen tornadoes in several states.

Shinnston was hit the hardest, and the death toll of over eighty people may have been much higher had it not been for the Second World War.

Crystal Wimer said that "Obviously we don't want any disaster to happen, but this happened during World War II in 1944..." and this may have prevented more casualties when the tornado struck.

Because of the War community members were prepared for an emergency of this magnitude. Every county and state in America had their own community members as a part of the Civil Defense. These members included nurses, doctors and first responders.

"Lots of community groups and citizens in Harrison county were part of civilian defense...they were able to deploy very, very quickly and rapidly to Shinnston, and we're very fortunate that Clarksburg had two hospitals nearby..." Crystal Wimer claims.

When the Shinnston Tornado occurred on June 23rd, 1944, the Civil Defense teams in Harrison County were able to deploy quickly to Shinnston to help those injured by the tornado. The quick response had likely saved their lives.

Crystal Wimer said that the importance of the Civil Defense organization in Harrison County was "Being an immediate network to be available to happen like that...” she snapped her fingers.

This tornado did not just impact Shinnston; in fact other communities were affected as well. Next week, Meteorologist Timothy Albertson will show you the Shinnston Tornado's path and some of the damage it caused to families and businesses alike, as well as getting an idea of how strong this tornado really was.