Pacemakers Dragway Park funnel cloud

What appears to be a funnel cloud forms over Pacemakers Dragway Park in Mount Vernon on Friday night. The National Weather Service reported no confirmed tornadoes in the area.

MOUNT VERNON – The pictures are daunting.

Mount Vernon’s historic brick streets, flooded within minutes. Dark and dangerous skies above Ashley, just moments before the storm hit. A security-camera still shot from Pacemakers Dragway Park, looking out over the racetrack, as what appears to be a funnel cloud looms in the distance.

But according to the National Weather Service, Knox County got lucky on Friday night. No tornadoes were confirmed in the area, NWS-Cleveland Meteorologist Kirk Lombardy said, despite the warning issued earlier in the evening.

“We have no indication at this time of any tornadoes,” Lombardy said in an email late Friday night. "We did receive a report of trees and power lines down in Mt. Vernon.”

That appears to be the extent of the damage in Knox County – namely two large trees that fell across State Route 586 just south of Mount Vernon, near Faith Baptist Church. As of Saturday morning, AEP reported fewer than five power outages in the county.

When asked specifically about the photo from Pacemakers Dragway Park, which appears to show a funnel cloud forming just beyond the trees, Lombardy said he could not determine if that constituted an actual vortex.

“The image you sent to us is too difficult to make a call on what we are looking at,” he said in an email.

Pacemakers Dragway Park Operator Rod Zolman told NBC-4 that no one was at the track Friday night, and no one was injured. There will be minor debris clean-up needed, he said, but the track incurred no further damage.

“We had already decided we weren’t going to be out here tonight,” he told NBC-4, “and I think that was probably a blessing.”

In order for the NWS to issue a tornado warning for a given area, a tornado must be sighted or indicated by weather radar. The NWS warning for southeastern Knox County on Friday night, issued from 6:11 to 6:45 p.m., indicated “a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Mount Vernon, moving southeast at 25 miles per hour.”

Residents were instructed to take cover immediately, and sirens sounded off across the county. As massive thunderstorms swept diagonally through the area, visibility on many roadways vanished. The storm flooded streets and sunk backyards.

But no one was swept away by a whirling vortex.

According to the website tornadoproject.com, which has catalogued every tornado in Ohio from 1950-2012, the last time a tornado touched down in Knox County was Aug. 3, 2006. One person was injured. The National Centers for Environmental Information, which tracks current-day severe weather events, lists no recorded tornadoes in Knox County since that day.

To learn more about Knox County’s extensive tornado history, read this column written by Mark Sebastian Jordan last April.

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.