The Rye Cove Cyclone

In 1929 there was an outbreak of deadly tornadoes in the eastern U.S., including Appalachia. One of the worst hit places was in Rye Cove, Virginia, where the twister destroyed a school. On this episode, we tell the story of that tornado and its aftermath.

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3 thoughts on “The Rye Cove Cyclone

  1. The name is pronounced Noblin = Knob lin He is an ancestor of mine as was Mr. Smith

    1. Steve Gilly says:

      Duly noted…we apologize for the mispronunciation. Thanks for letting us know and thank you for listening!

  2. Tuesday ( May 2, 2016 ) will mark 87 years since the Rye Cove Tornado. Today this remains the deadliest twister to ever strike the Old Dominion of Virginia. It may have also been one of the strongest. I found evidence for this in an interview did by R.L. Sturgill ( 1991 ) in his book: Nostalgic Narratives and Historic Events of Southwest Virginia.
    U.S.A. printing, pp. 96-108. In this it was written that the tornado, at one point amid its deadly path, dug a trench in the ground that was 2 feet deep, 8 feet wide, and around 75 feet long. Shingles from Rye Cove High School, along with a hinge from the school piano, were found as far away as High Knob ( the peak area ).

    Today we understand that it requires a very strong tornado to dig a trench in the ground, generally EF-4 to EF-5 on the newly develop Enhanced Fujita Scale. Although it can not be known how strong this May 2, 1929 tornado was, this evidence alone suggests it was extremely powerful and certainly a candidate for one of the strongest to ever strike southwestern Virginia and the state. When structural debris are lacking today, the stronger tornadoes are ranked by those capable of digging trenches in the ground ( over open country side ).

    Given it was 1929 the strength of this tornado may have been overlooked due to the “wood dominated” nature of the school, but even a modern school today would be at risk from a tornado that could dig such a trench in the ground ( a feat requiring a tremendous pressure gradient force and a vapor pressure gradient between the soil and overlying atmosphere ).

    The Rye Cove tornado of May 2, 1929. The deadliest to ever strike the Old Dominion of Virginia and also likely one of the strongest ( a 4 mile long and 0.25 mile wide path was reported for this event ).

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