The National Weather Service is investigating reports by officials at Hyde Airfield in Clinton that a tornado was responsible for toppling 14 airplanes at the field Wednesday night.
Although a National Weather Service spokesman said yesterday that there were no confirmed sightings of a tornado in the Clinton area during the storms that swept the Washington area Wednesday night, an airport spokesman and local pilots said the way planes were strewn about the field indicated that a tornado was responsible. More than $100,000 in damage to the planes was reported.
A weather service representative is scheduled to inspect the site today.
"It was definitely a disturbed bunch of air that went through there," said Harry Lehman, manager of the airfield. "I call it a twister. It tore the dickens out of things."
Prince George's County Police say the damage occurred at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. At 10 p.m. the National Weather Service reported rain and sustained 12 mph winds at National Airport, but later, at 10:46 p.m. it reported a 40 mph gust.
Airfield officials said the damage was sporadic and affected only three areas of the field. Lehman said some planes were turned upside down but others were untouched. Most were small, single-engine planes weighing 1,600 to 3,000 pounds, he said.
"Quite a few planes were total losses; 35 mph winds aren't the ones that did this," Lehman said.
Bob Jenkins, a flight instructor at the airfield, said one plane was severely damaged after it and a four-foot-thick slab of concrete it was tied to were pushed around. He said two other airplanes were turned upside down and pushed to the edge of Piscataway Road, which borders the airport.
"The damage was really crazy out here," he said.
Lehman said there are about 150 planes parked at the field. Police said there were no injuries at the field during the storm.