Localized Tornado Leaves Lasting Damage
By Kathy Knotts
Just one month after Hurricane Isaias wreaked havoc on our region, spawning tornadoes in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, an EF1 tornado touched down south of Annapolis in Edgewater Sept. 3.
What began as a supercell thunderstorm that tracked east across central Maryland produced the tornado that touched down late Thursday afternoon and continued to the western shore of the Bay. It lasted just 10 minutes, according to the National Weather Service, from 5:57 to 6:07 pm, but it carved a swath of destruction in that short time period. From the shore of Beards Creek off the South River in Edgewater to Historic London Town to Great Frogs Winery on Harness Creek to its end point near Arundel on the Bay, the tornado trekked six miles uprooting trees and sending debris flying in its 90mph winds.
Tornadic damage began after the storm crossed Beard’s Creek off the South River. Trees crashed down near the intersection of Edgewater Drive and Park Avenue, just north of Lee Airport. The tornado intensified as it moved east into central Edgewater, and reached its peak EF1 strength in the community bounded by Solomons Island Road (Route 2), Virginia Avenue, and Ridge Avenue. There was damage in all directions. Siding was torn from the wall of one home, and roof flashing was ripped on another. To the north, a commercial fence blew down.
Trees got the worst of it: the NWS says most of the trees in this area lost some large branches, about 10 were entirely uprooted or snapped, and some fell into power poles, homes or vehicles.
As the tornado crossed Solomons Island Road, it weakened to an EF0 but continued to cause scattered damage left of the tornado’s track. Damage was noted on both sides of Warehouse Creek along Leeland Road and South River Landing Road.
At Historic London Town in Edgewater, fallen trees damaged parts of the gardens and the picnic area. Executive Director Rod Cofield was thankful that the storm stayed away from most of the buildings.
“The damage was primarily to the southern portion of the property and our picnic area is messed up pretty bad, but no damage to our main buildings so we were very lucky,” he says. “Some trees fell on our tractor shelter and the covering needs to be replaced but the metal frame held up really well.”
Cofield says much of the debris cleanup was handled over the weekend, but the site is reaching the end of what they can easily do so they are coordinating with the county “for the bigger stuff.”
“I anticipate that the public won’t notice much of an issue other than the picnic area being closed. There was some damage to our core gardens but it didn’t take out anything of horticultural significance, but the removal of limbs will be a delicate process,” says Cofield.
The high winds turned the Arundel Rivers Federation’s pump-out boat on its side, sinking it in Selby Bay. Pump-outs have been cancelled for the season.
The tornado continued across the South River and into Hillsmere Shores where it damaged the tasting room at Great Frogs Winery and uprooted a large tree at The Key School’s soccer field. Wind-blown limbs damaged the protective netting and metal framing attached to a scoreboard on the field. The path continued east across Hillsmere Drive where a half dozen 30- to 40-foot tall pine trees were uprooted.
Further northeast along Sunset Drive, scattered tree damage included a large tree that broke a hole in a home’s roof, letting water inside. After the tornado tracked east through the Arundel on the Bay community, the tornado dissipated near the shoreline of the Bay.
It made for a busy evening for local fire departments. “We responded to approximately 55 storm-related calls Thursday evening,” says Capt. Russ Davies, spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. “33 of the 55 were in the Edgewater/Mayo/Woodland Beach area. There were also calls in Davidsonville, West Annapolis, and the Annapolis Neck.”
Davies says many of the calls were related to electrical hazards: wires down, trees on power lines and transformer fires. “We have calls similar to the above really anytime severe storms come through the county. The difference here is that it’s in a pretty concentrated area,” Davies said.
County residents should always report storm damage to the Anne Arundel Office of Emergency Management (www.aacounty.org/departments/office-of-emergency-management/).
While not altogether rare, tornadoes still surprise us here in Chesapeake Country. “Tornadoes are not uncommon in Maryland,” says Chris Strong, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with NWS Baltimore/Washington. “But when they happen, they typically affect small localized areas. So the chance of any one spot getting a tornado is uncommon. Anne Arundel County last had one in 2012 near Tipton Airport/Ft. Meade, and has had seven since 2000. That said, two were rather close to the county a few weeks ago during August in adjacent Calvert County related to Tropical Storm Isaias.”
The derecho that swept through the area in 2012 was just as destructive as a tornado, recalls Cofield. Davies remembers a tornado in Severna Park in 2006. “The damage then was substantially similar. We have[also] seen a couple of incidents of storm damage due to microbursts this year. Most notable was the one in Lake Shore on July 5 where the tree fell on the garage and injured 20 people. There was another June 27 outside of Annapolis that damaged several homes.”
Staying weather-aware is important, especially in late summer and early fall. “It has been an active stretch of weather over the past few weeks in Maryland, with the tropical storm, flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes,” says Strong. “These types of stretches come and go during our warmer part of the year. Being ready largely comes down to two things: getting weather warnings from the National Weather Service through a phone app or NOAA weather radio and having an emergency kit on hand and a plan for what to do when severe weather threatens.”
Learn how to create an emergency kit at www.ready.gov. Anne Arundel County residents can sign up for emergency alerts through OEM’s notification system, CivicReady. Landlines are automatically subscribed. Call 410-222-0600 or visit http://alertannearundel.civicready.com/ to add cell phone notifications.