Did Sunday's storms have more bark than bite?
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Tornado watches were hoisted Sunday across most of the northeast United States, including here in the D.C. metro area. At the time, a strong and strengthening surface low-pressure system was passing from the Midwest and Ohio Valley -- where tornadoes had caused fatalities -- into New York and New England.
Tornado watches are not terribly frequent here and further up the coast, so they may get a little more notice than the average severe thunderstorm watch. But the results, outside a few reports of wind damage, did not seem to match the outlook from some forecasters.
Keep reading for a recap on the event and some photos from Virginia and the District. But first, vote in the poll below...
As Sunday got underway, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) sounded the alarm for a potential severe weather outbreak across the Northeast. While the focus was on places from New York and New Jersey into Southern New England, the risk of a significant episode of severe weather was a possibility into the mid-Atlantic.
WINDS ARE ALSO QUITE STRONG AND SUPPORTIVE OF SUPERCELLS...WITH A POTENTIAL FOR A FEW STRONG TORNADOES. -SPC, Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
THE SETUP LOOKS FAVORABLE FOR SCATTERED TO POSSIBLY NUMEROUS STRAIGHT-LINE WIND DAMAGE ACROSS PORTIONS OF THE AREA ... ESPECIALLY TOWARD THE WRN SHORE OF THE BAY ... VALUES ARE SUPPORTIVE OF ISOLATED TORNADOES AS WELL. -NWS Sterling, Va., Sunday at 10:56 a.m.
Scattered, a couple strong/severe ... Storms that develop could produce damaging winds, hail, and even isolated tornado activity. -CWG, Sunday Forecast
Storms that quickly blasted east out of the Ohio Valley and West Virginia began to impact the area during the early afternoon. However, the cold front lagged a bit behind activity that developed out in front of it. Though temperatures were very warm (Reagan National hit 91 and other airports in the upper 80s) and there was ample moisture for storms, overall activity remained somewhat limited and only two or three cells gained much intensity.
The first main storm (pictured above and below while passing by D.C.) moved through the western suburbs before impacting portions of the District and Maryland. At around 1:30 p.m., wind damage was reported near Purcellville in Loudoun County. As the storm continued east, it caused additional wind damage in southeast D.C. with several more unconfirmed reports in and near the city. Isolated wind gusts reached near 60 to 70 mph.
On the National Mall, visitors were largely spared the brunt of the storm. Only the tail end of the rain and associated winds moved through the southern portion of the city. A fairly pronounced gust front moved by with a quick burst of winds to about 30 mph. While well below severe limits, it was enough to cause a mini dust storm on the Mall before the first drops landed to wet the soil. Additional showery activity developed behind the main line but did not produce much rain.
While the first storm traveled east, Twitter user @mindthedot sent over a photo of a lightning strike taken from Union Station. As the core of the storm passed from the Rockville, Md area to near Bowie, then toward Anapolis, it exhibited some rotation. The National Weather Service hoisted a tornado warning for Anne Arundle and Prince Georges counties. As of publication, there has been no verification of a tornado or any public reports of such.
Another intense supercell developed across southern portions of the area as the first large storm moved east. This storm prompted more severe warnings including a tornado warning for Stafford, Culpeper and Fauquier counties in Virginia. Like the previous storm that received a tornado warning, no tornadoes were reported, but some trees were downed near Stafford around 4 p.m.
Further to the northeast, where forecasts were more bullish for severe weather, there were also no confirmed reports of tornadoes on Sunday as of publication. The watch that covered areas from Pennsylvania to New England and the coast was issued with 90 percent probability of 2 or more tornadoes and a 50 percent chance of a strong F2+ tornado. Folks in New England, including a meteorologist in Connecticut, called it an "epic fail". Nonetheless, the majority of storm damage came from that region on Sunday.
What do you think? Was the threat on Sunday overblown or was it just a typical severe weather day around these parts where many get missed and a few get hit?
Photos by author unless noted.
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