Tornado Week

Jun13-0087

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it seemed like everywhere you looked, there was weather? That’s what it was like last week, with three near misses.

In National Harbor for a business event on Monday, I had just returned to my room when I learned about a tornado warning just a few miles to the south. I could see some very wet people outside, but no obvious violent weather, and it blew over. 2 days later,  Elizabeth arrived for pizza with my co-workers, and we were surprised when our iPhones rang simultaneously. It turned out to be a tornado warning in Ohio. We anxiously watched the storm traversing the county on our phones. The tornadic storm passed a couple miles below our property without any impact, other than what must have been a loud hailstorm on a metal roof.

Tornadic storm approaches from southwest

Pooped after long 2 weeks of business travel, I returned home Thursday afternoon, popped a beer, and took it out to the sidewalk to watch the long-expected not-quite-a-derecho-after-all roll in.  The air had that hot sultry Midwestern feeling of impending meteorological violence. The southwestern sky became darker and darker, taking on an unfortunate greenish color. Halfway through my Heineken, the first few rain drops hit, so I walked inside and turned on the telly.

15 minutes to Armeggedon

In half a beer, my world had gone from a severe thunderstorm warning to you have 15 minutes to find a basement. With a certain urgency, the weatherman showed a dark read warning right across our neighborhood, explaining that although there was no apparent tornado on the ground, everyone between Leesburg and Ashburn Junction (a half mile to the southeast) would be best off to assume cyclonic activity.

Heart of the storm from upstairs window

Not having a basement, and apparently having 15 minutes to think about that, I went upstairs to get my camera. As I watched to the southeast, the visibility dropped from a couple hundred yards, to a hundred feet.  Small hail peppered the outside wall, and the window shook violently a couple of times.  Water poured out of the downspouts, missing the lowest tier of gutter, spewing all over the patio. I walked back downstairs to where the basement door would be if we had one.

Heart of the storm

The lights flickered. The windows rattled. The weatherman explained that the purple spots on the radar were really bad, and he held his left hand over our neighborhood to emphasize the benefit of the basements that nobody underneath his hand actually had. By this point, I’d already weathered the first purple spot, with one more smaller one due to pass over any second.  Milking the moment of doom for another 4 minutes, Storm Team 4 then announced that the tornado warning was lifted for Loudoun county, and was headed north of DC through Montgomery County.  Within 30 minutes, the storm had split into two parallel tornado warning paths, thousands of PEPCO customers were without power (so what else is new?) and small funnel cloud damaged a house in Rockville.

Waves of rain hit as the heart of the storm leaves Loudoun

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