Residents of Apollo do not expect to experience tornadoes. We are under the impression that the hills surrounding our small town will protect us. In the summer of 1980, we learned otherwise. On June 3, 1980, nine tornadoes ripped through four counties in Western Pennsylvania, leaving a 50-mile-long trail of damage. In the Edgewood Estates Trailer Park in Apollo, 77 trailers were destroyed and 46 were damaged. According to John O’Donnell from the Valley News Dispatch, this tornado happened because “in a small area just off the western edge of Lake Erie, something unusual in the weather pattern happened. Cold dry air from Canada converged with the warm moist air from the south. What made this a problem was the presence of a high energy jet stream in the area. Combined, this made a volatile atmospheric mixture.” This moving air turned into a tornado that struck the Kiski Valley, as well as other places in Western Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
Looking back, the morning of June 3 was beautiful. Bad weather was not expected. After going through Natrona Heights, Melwood Manor, and Vandergrift, the tornado followed the river through North Apollo, then along Sugar Hollow Road to Edgewood Estates. The park was the most devastated part of the storm’s path. The storm became an F4 with a path over 300 ft. wide when it hit there.
After the tornado had passed, the shock of what had happened began to set in. The Valley News Dispatch reported on June 4, “As many as 150 people are homeless today. More than 100 people were injured, seven seriously, and damages are unofficially estimated at more than $6 million. In the Edgewood Estates mobile home park 123 families were left homeless. The loss there is estimated at $3 million.”
People immediately began to rebuild with help from FEMA and insurance money. Over thirty years later the Edgewood Estates are now known as Pine Valley Estates with a thriving population.