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Tornado, formerly Upper Falls, is an unincorporated census designated place (CDP) in Kanawha County, West Virginia.


During an exploratory expedition in 1742, John Peter Salling discovered the Upper Falls of Coal River, which bisect the community. The settlement was originally named "Upper Falls", with the name "Tornado" adopted when a local post office opened in 1881.

European settlers first arrived after the Revolutionary War; many of the original settlers left after conflicts with natives. A gristmill, established circa-1800 by Joseph Thomas at the Upper Falls, operated until the 1930s. Timber has been harvested from the region since the 1830s; canal locks and dams were constructed in the 1850s to transport coal and timber. Commercial steamboat traffic ran until 1881, with various interruptions caused by ongoing flooding and the Civil War. The Coal River and Western Railway, completed in 1904, is now operated by CSX Transportation to transport bituminous coal to global markets.

While timber extraction ended in the 1920s, the community grew in the post-World War II era to house workers for weapons and chemical manufacturing industries. Tornado is now largely a residential suburb serving the Charleston Metro Valley.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names renamed the community to "Upper Falls" in 2010, but reinstated Tornado's distinctive name in 2013 after the Kanawha County Commission received complaints from residents that the name change was causing confusion in locating the community on GPS maps, an obstacle to efforts promoting the town.

Tornado, the largest CDP in West Virginia, is in the Charleston, West Virginia metropolitan area.

Get in[edit]

Access is provided by seven public highways into the center of the community.

On the west side of Coal River, Kanawha County Highway 3, known as Coal River Road, approaches from the city of Saint Albans to the north and then becomes County Highway 9/1 as it continues south to the community of Alum Creek. Browns Creek Road, with the distinction of being County Highway 1, enters Tornado from its terminus at the Midland Trail National Scenic Byway to the north. County Highway 3, here named Falls Creek Road, enters from the community of Garretts Bend to the west. Woods Drive, or County Highway 1/3, crosses into Tornado from the west at the Putnam County line.

On the east side of the river, Smith Creek Road, or Kanawha County Highway 9, provides access from the city of South Charleston further to the east. Dogwood Road, which is County Highway 6/6, crosses into Tornado from Saint Albans at the Armstrong Tunnel.

Get around[edit]

With portage around the Upper Falls of Coal River, the adventurous can trans-navigate Upper Falls from watercraft on the Walhonde Water Trail.


The Upper Falls of Coal River bisect the community and give it its former name from their cascading waters.


Big Bend Golf Course (151 Riverview Drive) is a championship, 18 hole, par 71 golf course of 6,237 yards. Opened in 1965, the course was designed by Claude Evans to be easy enough for beginners and yet challenging for the pro. Trees line the fairways and water is in play on three holes. Larger greens are sloped enough to test putting skill. Big Bend is nestled within its namesake Big Bend of Coal River, which flows around the course and compliments its scenic beauty. Features include a pro shop and a snack bar that serves hot sandwiches and beverages.

Meadowood Park (292 Pettigrew Lane) features soccer fields, volleyball, picnic shelters, children's play structures, fishing and boating. The park is home to the Upper Falls Landing on the Walhonde Water Trail, a natural landing on Coal River that supports watercraft portage around Upper Falls Dam and Upper Falls Lock. Upper Falls Point provides a spectacular view of the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls Walking Trail is here, one of a series of autonomous trails that comprise the Walhonde Walking Trail system. Parking and restrooms are available. Admission is free.

Mountaineer Radio Control Flying Club (8004 Smith Creek Road) maintains a flying field that is very busy on summer weekends. New fliers are always welcome.






Go next[edit]

Walhonde Trail Byway is a planned scenic byway that will transverse Upper Falls.

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