Saturday, June 14, 2014

Recalling strong tornadoes in DC area in September 2001.

I’ve continued documenting areas where tornadoes or severe storms have occurred. 
On Monday, September 24, 2001, an F3 tornado moved from slightly south of College Park, MD all the way up to Laurel, MD.   Earlier, a smaller tornado had crossed the Mall, and an F4 tornado had struck a largely rural area along US 29 between Warrenton and Culpeper, Va.  The Washington Post account is here.    This was an autumn, not spring storm. 

The tornado lifted some cars, and according to some reports threw one car, with two students inside, over Easton Hall (right floors) into tall trees along University Blvd (MD 193).  It’s not clear if it was thrown across 193; that sounds less likely.  There is a thicket of trees between 193 and the actual dorm building. I asked someone on campus tonight, and she remembered having heard of the incident, but was stunned that a car could have been thrown that high in the air in an East Coast tornado.

A student made a video from a distance, including the sheltering.

There was further damage just west of Route 1 all the way up to Laurel, including Laurel High School. 

After a week of torrential rains in some areas, it’s well to remember that very severe weather can occur east of the Appalachians.  It’s not clear if climate change could make large tornadoes more common in the area, or if actually less frequent, as cold fronts from the north would become usually weaker.  

There was a local story about flooded basements in Berwyn Heights, near College Park.  I drove through the town, saw a little damage; but I noticed that the infrastructure looked heltter skelter.  Some of these areas with flood problems have old infrastructure that has not been properly maintained. 

It's well to remember that there was an EF4 tornado in La Plata, MD (on US 301) in southern Maryland in April 2002,crossing  near this site today. 

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