Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BELCAMP, Md. (WJZ) –A major storm hit Harford County on Sunday, but it took until Tuesday evening to confirm two tornadoes touched down.
As destructive as tornadoes can be, Alex DeMetrick reports they aren’t always easy to identify.
Sometimes it’s easy. There was no mistaking the tornado that tore into La Plata, Md. in 2002. But being an eyewitness isn’t always possible or safe, as University of Maryland College Park students found out in a 2001 twister.
Damage isn’t always extensive. Only trees and power lines were lost Sunday in Harford County.
A weak EF-0 tornado hit near Belcamp, while another hit near Street, Md. in the 4 p.m. hour Sunday. The tornadoes lasted only a few minutes, but had winds between 65 and 85 mph.
“Trees over 200 years old were toppled. The tops of trees were twisted off,” said Jim Fielder, homeowner.
It’s the way those trees were lost that brought out National Weather Service investigators. Luckily for Maryland, tornadoes are usually small and not always obvious.
“We come out here and survey and see what was damaged, what wasn’t damaged, how it was damaged,” said Chris Strong, National Weather Service.
For example, last week a powerful storm hit Baltimore. Trees were toppled, but evidence for a tornado was lacking. One difference in Harford County was people saw a funnel cloud forming. One person saw it on the ground.
“I saw this,” Fielder said. “It was very specific, like a cloud on the ground that rotated.”
And most important, those eyewitness accounts linked up with the radar record.
“We have radar from a number of sources that were able to track the storm as it rolled through,” Strong said.
And it added up to a small tornado.
“And I never want to experience it again,” said one tornado survivor.
Because even if they start small, there’s no guarantee they’re going to stay that way.
Tornadoes don’t have to be lethal to be important to the National Weather Service. All are documented for future research.