One of the few tornadoes reported in Romania during the socialist period (19451989, Antonescu and Bell 2015) occurred on 9 May 1963 at Satu Mare (Raionul Rădăuți in 1963, Suceava County today, Fig. 1). In the same year an article, analysing the evolution of the tornado, was published by V. Țigănescu in Natura (The Nature) a scientific journal devoted to Geography and Geology*.  The article contains probably the most detailed description of the evolution, damages and atmospheric conditions associated with a tornado that occurred in Romania before 2002, when an F3+ long-track tornado crossing through southeastern Romania was responsible for at least three fatalities in the village of Făcăeni (Lemon et al. 2003). Țigănescu (1963) mentions at the beginning of the article, that tornadoes (he uses landspouts - trombe de uscat) do occur in Romania but they are rare events and that the tornado from Satu Mare offers a good opportunity to analyse them. 

Fig. 1 - Spatial distribution of tornado reports during the socialist period (7 reports between 1945 and 1989) in Romania. Tornadoes were classified according to their intensity on the F scale for weak tornadoes (F0 or F1) (yellow) and significant tornadoes (F2 and F3) (red). Tornadoes for which an estimation of the intensity was not possible are represented in blue. The yellow rectangle highlights the location of the Satu Mare tornado. [Adapted from Fig. 4 in Antonescu and Bell 2015.]

The tornado was first observed around 12:30 local time (14:30 UTC) as "a column of dens air stretching form the clouds to the ground". At the beginning, a fifth of the column was black and the rest was white. Once the funnel cloud reached the ground, the base of the column darkened and the debris clearly indicated the rotation of the column (Fig. 2). Based on eyewitnesses reports and damages surveys, Țigănescu (1963) estimated that hight of the "column" was 600–800 m with a diameter of 3040 m, the path length was approximately 5.5 km from southeast to northwest and the duration between 15–20 minutes. (Some of the eyewitnesses described the tornado as a dragon, see this post for more details about the dragons and tornadoes in Romania.) 

After a short description of the atmospheric conditions associated with the tornado occurrence, Țigănescu (1963) concluded that tornadoes can occur in other parts of Romania if "the right conditions arise" (i.e., "an exceptional difference in air density in a relatively small space") and that some of these tornadoes can be high impact events. Unfortunatelly, Țigănescu's study did not had an impact on the meteorological community and for the next 25 years was believed that tornadoes do not occur in Romania (Antonescu and Bell 2015).  

Fig. 2 - The tornado seen from northwest (left) and west (right). The phases indicates the descent of the funnel cloud. This is one of the earliest representation of a tornado published in the Romanian scientific literature. [Adapted from Figs. 3 and 4 in Tiganescu (1963).]

[*) The article:  Țigănescu, V, 1963: Tromba de uscat de la Satu Mare - Rădăuți. Natura (Seria Geografie-Geologie), 5, 43–51, is available here, courtesy of the University of Manchester Library and "Carol I" Central University Library in Bucharest. ]

AuthorBogdan Antonescu