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Huge trees toppled in both D.C. and Maryland; wind gusts possible, woman hurt

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:15:39 EST
Kendis Gibson, Jay Korff, ABC 7 News

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- Wind gusts were speculated as a possible cause of toppled trees along streets in both the District of Columbia and the D.C. suburb of Takoma Park, Md. on Monday, injuring at least one person.

A large tree came crashing down on Tilden Street NW in the District in the morning, crushing a minivan and cutting off traffic between Reno Road and Connecticut Avenue.

Tree removal crews spent about three hours chopping up and removing the 80-year-old oak tree.

No injuries occurred and minivan owner Michael Sera said he was "very thankful" that he wasn't in the car when the tree fell.

He said he was in a state of disbelief when he walked outside and saw his vehicle literally cut in half by the force of the toppled 60-to-70-foot pin oak tree.

“I couldn't believe it,” Sera said. “We just parked the car, came to the embassy—no more than 15 minutes—and it fell."

Neighbor Jan Sten, who witnessed the tree fall over, called the sight "amazing."

"I've seen lots of trees tumble over during storms, but I have never seen a tree just topple over," she said. "I was shocked.”

Andrew Beall of Adirondack Tree Removal said overgrown tree roots that had "nowhere to go" and cracked the sidewalk were a contributing factor in the incident.

Meanwhile in Takoma Park, another huge tree came tumbling down in the late afternoon hours near the intersection of Holly and Dogwood avenues.

Nearby residents said they heard the tree fall and then looked outside to see a woman and her young child trapped under the debris.

“Suddenly the lights flickered and we heard this thud,” said neighbor Michael Richards. “We looked outside, and there it was.”

Angel Ignato gave a similar account: “All I literally saw was a flash from the power line snapping, and then I heard what basically sounded like thunder to me.”

The child was miraculously unhurt, while the mother suffered relatively minor injuries. Witnesses agreed that the pair were lucky to have survived.

“If she had been any more to the left of where she was, she could have had more than just a branch fall on her,” Ignato said.

As Richards summed it up: “You count your blessings,”.

Cooler and comfortable end to July

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 06:00:00 EST
Alex Liggitt

After a hot start to July with eight of the first fourteen days above 90 degrees, the pattern shifted. Since then, high temperatures topped out in the low to mid 80s seven times and reached 90 degrees only once.

Looking ahead to the end of July and the beginning of August, temperatures are still expected to be cooler than normal. Once we get through the weekend, which will feature more heat, humidity, and the chance for showers and the possibility of severe storms, cooler air is forecast to filter in next week.

500mb vorticity plot for next Tuesday

While a large ridge is expected to continue to build over the southwestern U.S., a potent shortwave will move through the Midwest and into the Northeast this weekend bringing the potential for severe storms.

This shortwave will spin around an area of low pressure centered over the eastern part of the Hudson Bay in Canada (above), which looks like it will be blocked from moving anywhere as high pressure sets up east over Canadian Maritimes and the northern Atlantic.

6 to 10 day temperature outlook from the CPC

In reality, what does this mean for the D.C. area? Temperatures may only approach the 80 degree mark Tuesday and low to mid 80s Wednesday through Friday of next week. In addition, humidity levels should be low, with dew points in the 50s expected Tuesday through Thursday before more moisture slides back into the region Friday.

Tuesday afternoon 2-meter temperature anomalies (Credit: WeatherBell Models)

With record heat dominating the headlines, including the hottest global June on record per NOAA, this will most certainly be enjoyed throughout the eastern half of the U.S. next week. Portions of the eastern U.S. will enjoy afternoon temperatures 10 to possibly 20 degrees below the seasonal average.

Survivors recount Virginia's Eastern Shore tornado that killed 2, hurt dozens

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:55:10 EST
Suzanne Kennedy

CAPE CHARLES, Va. (WJLA) - As John Lockhart sat huddled with terrified family members inside their shaking camper listening to the sound of heavy rain and wind, he feared the end could be near. Within minutes, a fierce F-1 tornado tore through their campground Thursday, snapping dozens of trees and flipping over RVs.

A couple from New Jersey was killed when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, in a tent next to them, had life-threatening injuries. Three-dozen others were also injured.

For Lockhart, whose family joined another family for what was to be a four-day camping trip at the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort along the Chesapeake Bay, he was counting his blessings on Friday to have survived.

"All you could do was say your prayers and just hold on," he said as he recounted living through the prior day's severe storm. "I could feel the whole camper, It felt like it was getting ready to lift off. I was really scared. I was fearing, that this was gonna be it."

Other family members agreed, saying the memory of the twister will haunt them for a long time to come.

"It was a wall of rain that hit and debris was flying everywhere. All I could hear was things hitting the camper," recalled DJ Rose.

Rose was among more than 1,300 people who were checked into the campground when the tornado - packing wind speeds of up to 100 miles per hour - struck around 8:30 a.m. Thursday

He said once the tornado finally passed, the families went outside and saw the campground had been ravaged, with debris strewn all around.

"It was overwhelming," he explained. "You walked outside and were literally ankle deep in water."

The popular, 300-acre campground hosts small cabins, campers and tents that are surrounded by massive pine trees, many of which were knocked down by the tornado.

The twister traveled about eight miles, a portion of that over water, according to the National Weather Service. While some crops in neighboring farm fields in rural Northampton County were damaged, state officials said most of the destruction occurred at the 50-year-old campground.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Severe Storms Possible Sunday and Monday

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:07:00 EST
Lauryn Ricketts

Say goodbye to the beautiful weather of Friday and hello again to summer in Washington, D.C. for the weekend. That means a return of heat and humidity as well as a return of summertime thunderstorms. Saturday will feature very warm temperatures, right around 90 degrees for a daytime high with increasing clouds and increasing humidity late in the day. Another thing that will increase on Saturday will be the chances of showers and thunderstorms. Albeit, it is only a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms through the PM and overnight hours on Saturday, but still a chance.

An upper level piece of energy will approach the region on Saturday night. Mainly our western areas will be the breeding ground for any action, but by Sunday, we all have equal chances to see showers and thunderstorms across the area as that disturbance passes through the D.C. area.



Also what we are watching after Sunday’s disturbance is a very strong cold front will be dropping out of the upper Midwest and down into the region for Monday. Therefore, we have a chance of showers and thunderstorms Saturday night – Monday, some of which could be strong to severe.
Above graphic, at the top, shows the slight risk area for severe weather Saturday through Monday. The risk moves from the Ohio Valley Saturday to our area on Sunday and Monday. On the bottom of the graphic, the surface features show an area of high pressure overhead bringing us very pleasant on conditions on Friday. Then through 8 p.m. Saturday, the area of high pressure scoots off the coast giving us a southerly flow bringing humid air from the south and transporting it right here into the D.C. area as a warm front approaches the region. By Sunday and Monday morning, the strong cold front is still to the north and west of the area.

So now that we know what is going on, what can we except through the weekend? Well considering that warm front is just to the south on Saturday night, lift from warm advection around the warm front and the piece of energy approaching us from westerly flow aloft will give us that about a 20% chance of storms on Saturday afternoon and evening continuing through the overnight hours. There will be a good chance of severe weather across our area through the day on Sunday as that disturbance moves through the region. One thing that still remains a question is temperatures on Sunday. Right now I have temperatures fairly warm, nearing 90 degrees. But, if we get some thunderstorms in the morning hours, that could down our temperatures for the afternoon and lessen the instability in the atmosphere. Either way, it will still be very muggy outside through the day on Sunday with mainly clouds hanging around. Some of our models do suggest that we get some thunderstorms during the first part of the day on Sunday.




Caption: Showers and thunderstorms around the region weaken slightly as they travel to our area from the north and west. This is around 11a.m. on Sunday.

We do know that any of these storms could produce damaging winds, possible hail and heavy rain. There will certainly be substantial moisture around the region given the nice southerly flow, therefore localized flash flooding is definitely a concern. Take a look at our precipitable water values:




You may have heard this term or “PWATS” quite a bit this summer. Really what preciptable water values are are the amount of water within a vertical column above the surface if it were all precipitated out. These values are over 2.00” in some spots and when we see that, we know there is enough moisture available to create flooding conditions.

By Monday, the chance of showers and storms remains through the day as the cold front finally travels through the region. Again, some of there could be strong to severe but by Tuesday, we are in for another treat.


A nice refreshing airmass moves into the region bringing low humidity and refreshing temperatures. Daytime highs on Tuesday are in the upper 70s to lower 80s! We just got to make it through some summertime storms to get the reward by mid-next week!

Cherrystone tornado rated EF-1

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:46:00 EST
Alex Liggitt

The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA surveyed the damage from yesterday morning's storm in Northhampton County in southeastern Virginia and determined the damage was due to a tornado, straight line wind, and a large swath of hail.

Path of the tornado, straight line wind and large hail

Above is a look at the path of the tornado, wind and large hail. The tornado originated in the Chesapeake Bay as the storm rapidly intensified. The EF-1 tornado had estimated maximum wind speeds of 80 to 100 mph and was on the ground for 8 miles over a span of 15 minutes. It's maximum width was 150 yards. The tornado wasn't the only feature that caused damage in this storm.

A downburst resulting in straight line winds was observed in the yellow wind damage swath. Wind speeds were estimated between 65 and 75 mph and downed numerous trees and even contributed to overturning several camping trailers in the Cherrystone Campground.

The hail core fell mainly within the blue lines (first image above) in the size of golfballs to a few reports of baseball size. This caused considerable tree and leaf debris, crop damage and siding damage on homes in the path.

The storm caused 36 injuries and 2 fatalities.

See the rest of the preliminary storm survey here.

Confirmed Tornado: 2 dead, 36 hurt at campground along Va.'s Eastern Shore

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:39:24 EST

CAPE CHARLES, Va. (WJLA/ABC News/AP) - A fierce tornado packing powerful winds of up to 100 miles an hour toppled trees and flipped campers Thursday at a campground along Virginia's Eastern Shore, killing at least two people and sending 36 more to hospitals, authorities said.

The two deceased were identified as a Jersey City, New Jersey couple - Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega - who died when a tree fell on their tent. In a tent next to them, their 13-year-old son suffered life-threatening injuries and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Of the dozens of others hurt, hospitals in the region said the injuries ranged mostly from cuts to broken bones.

It was around 9 a.m. when the confirmed F1 tornado slammed into the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort, which sits on 300 acres on the Chesapeake Bay in rural Northampton County.

More than 1,300 people were at the campground when the twister hit, which happened about 10 minutes after the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area.

"It came in real quick," Eastville volunteer firefighter Brittney Eder said."The sky turned jet black."

"All hell broke loose," added camper Joe Colony, who has been coming to the campground for 30 years. "We got an emergency message on a cellphone and within 30 seconds, the thing hit and it blew down 40, 50 trees in the park."

The tornado was part of a string of thunderstorms that hit the region. The storms formed over Chesapeake Bay, producing a waterspout that moved on shore as a tornado.

The storm system, which also produced hail about an inch in diameter, lasted for nearly four hours.

Coast Guard crews reported some boats had overturned in the water in the area and credited Good Samaritans with pulling out at least three people to safety.

Average hottest days in D.C. in the rearview, daylight diminishes

Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:18:00 EST

With temperatures forecast to be in the low to mid 90s, one wouldn't think the average hottest days are behind us, but the average high drops to 88 today. Don't worry, cold air isn't exactly going to march right into the D.C. area, as the average high temperature remains in the mid to upper 80s through the month of August. August also averages nearly 10 90-degree days, something we haven't seen too much of this year.

90 degree days in D.C.

In fact, D.C. is actually below average for 90-degree days so far this summer, with only 15 this year. Compare that to last year, which recorded 21 by the same time. Typically there are around 36 90-degree days per year in the D.C. area, so it appears this summer may go down as below average in that category. Ninety-degree days or not, this summer has still been above average, with temperature departures of +2°F in June and +0.5°F so far in July. We'll see how August fares.

Looking ahead, the heat will briefly subside Thursday and Friday but will return for the weekend. Highs should top out in the 90s both Saturday and Sunday, prior to a big-time cool down next Tuesday through the end of the month. Highs may only reach the 80-degree mark next Tuesday!

Duration of daylight for D.C.

Daylight continues to diminish since the summer Solstice, with 28 minutes gone in just a month's time. An additional 14 minutes of daylight will be lost by the end of the month, and over an hour more will be lost by the end of August, so enjoy it while it's here.

While this may be a depressing blog post for some, after summer, there's always cooler and crisp days, fall colors, the Nats playing in October, the Skins taking the field, and plenty of other great things to look forward to. Here's to a fantastic last 39 days of meteorological summer to go!

45th Anniversary of Landing on the Moon

Sun, 20 Jul 2014 05:00:00 EST

"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".  These are the words Neil Armstrong said 45 years ago today after he stepped onto the surface of the moon.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were all aboard the infamous Apollo 11 flight to the moon.


The three launched into space aboard Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969 via the Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Armstrong and Aldrin then climbed into the lunar module Eagle (below) that would descend onto the moon, while Collins orbited in command module Columbia.


At 4:18pm EDT, Armstrong connected with mission control in Houston saying "Houston, Tranquility base here.  The Eagle has landed". 

At 10:56 pm EST, Armstrong set foot onto the surface of the moon.  You can see in the image below the American flag the astronauts planted on the lunar surface.


Buzz Aldrin then joined Armstrong on the moon and the two spent time deploying instruments that would be used for experiments, gathering samples of lunar soil, and taking pictures. 

Here's a great "Moonwalk Montage" that takes us back to that day:


The three astronauts accomplished something the Russians had not.  NASA states they did not want to focus on the "victory" of the mission, but rather emphasized the "peaceful lunar landing by the United States. 

The patch designed for the mission was created by Michael Collins.  On the patch, the American Bald Eagle is depicted landing on the lunar surface, delivering an olive branch of peace.   The words "Apollo 11" were chosen for the top of the patch above a distance crescent shaped Earth.


The United State's determination in exploration through the Space program has taken us to the point where we now have a rover on Mars.  The mission 45 years ago today reemphasizes the spirit of our country and the desire to explore and discover outer space.

Tornado in Anne Arundel County? National Weather Service investigating

Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:14:36 EST

CROWNSVILLE, Md. (AP) - The National Weather Service is investigating whether a tornado may have touched down in Anne Arundel County during Tuesday's storms.

Meteorologist Ken Widelski with the weather service's Sterling, Virginia, office, said Wednesday that radar during the storm and initial damage reports on the ground near Crownsville raise the possibility that a twister may have struck. Tornado warnings in that area were issued Tuesday.

He and another National Weather Service worker will survey the damage. A final determination will be made in a few days.

Severe storms trigger tornado and t-storm warnings, leave damage behind yet again

Tue, 15 Jul 2014 16:23:36 EST

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- Severe storms popped up yet again Tuesday afternoon bringing lightning, hail and heavy rain as well as triggering a tornado warning in the D.C. region.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning in Anne Arundel County after radar showed rotation near Odenton, Md. The view from the sky overhead was equally scary for many.





The tornadic storm dumped quarter-size hail about 3 p.m. near the intersection of Route 97 and Old Mill Blvd. in Anne Arundel County. It also brought down trees in neighboring Prince George's County across the southbound lanes of the BW Parkway, I-295 at Route 198.



In Silver Spring - which was hit by the storms before they grew even stronger on their trek eastward - massive trees fell on a home on Woodmoor Drive. Power lines were also taken down along New Hampshire Avenue near I-495, with a truck getting tangled in the downed wires and forcing the street's closure.



Rainfall totals from the storms in Maryland ranged from 1.4 inches in Beltsville to an inch and a half in Chevy Chase to 1.76 in Glen Burnie. A Flash Flood Watch was in effect through the evening for most of the area.

After inflicting damage in the D.C. metro, the strong, lightning-filled storms then quickly overtook the Chesapeake Bay as they began moving out of the region.


Storms roll through D.C. region with heavy rain, strong wind and lots of lightning

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:09:15 EST

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- A line of severe storms that dumped heavy rain along with bringing damaging winds and a lot of lightning rolled across the D.C. region on Monday afternoon and evening.

A bolt of lightning appeared to hit right behind the U.S. Capitol dome, possibly striking at the Library of Congress. There were no reports of any damage or injury from that strike. There was also lightning spotted in the vicinity of the Washington monument around the same time.





Thunderstorm warnings were issued for a number of counties in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland as the storms moved eastward; scary cloud formations even prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Tornado Warning for the Baltimore area as the storms approached.



The storm's aftermath left downed trees and power lines in numerous locations across the D.C. area. Utility companies reported thousands without power as a result.




(Editor's note: Above is a time lapse video of the storm approaching Ranson, WV. Inwood is to the left of center and Martinsburg to the right.)


Weather Alert: Severe Thunderstorm Watch until 8 p.m. for entire D.C. area

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:55:11 EST


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