Monday Evening's Tornado (7_1_13)
WUSA 9 was on the air from 7:36 PM - 8:00 PM Monday night tracking a potential tornado and informing folks what to do to stay safe. By 7:42 PM the highest wind shear we could find was only about 35 mph. By 7: 50 PM we showed viewers how and why the storm had weakened. We passed on a report of a trained spotter seeing a funnel cloud in northern Charles County. Well, earlier around 7:33 a small EF 0 tornado did touch down just west of Brandywine and south of Clinton, Maryland in Prince George's County. Our local National Weather Service office from Sterling went out and surveyed the damage and studied pictures, videos and eye witness accounts and concluded that indeed a small tornado touched down with winds between 40 and 60 mph. The maximum width was 75 yards and the path was a little over two miles in length. Tree limbs six to twelve inches in diameter were snapped off.
Are we having more tornadoes ? I don't think so. There is a difference between occurrence and detection. We are detecting more tornadoes because our Doppler radar keeps improving. Just ten years ago and maybe only five years ago, that damage would have been chalked up to a severe thunderstorm. Actually, this EF 0 barely would have met the criteria of a severe thunderstorm. Winds must be over 58 mph (and/or contain one inch diameter hail) in order to require a severe thunderstorm warning.