The Washington Post

Tornado confirmed as storms bring heavy rains, funnel clouds

A complex system of weather fronts combined Thursday afternoon to produce violent storms in the Washington area that caused at least one confirmed tornado, heavy rains, high winds and funnel clouds. But no injuries were immediately reported.

A senior forecaster at the National Weather Service said a tornado touched down two miles southwest of Quantico, said Kevin Witt, a meteorologist. The forecaster examined a video of a funnel cloud and determined about 10 p.m. that a tornado was on the ground, due to swirling debris on the recording, Witt said.

The storms produced reports of funnel clouds in Louisa and Stafford counties, where the weather service reported damage to trees and houses.

The storm also damaged a house and barn near Midland in Fauquier County, which displaced seven people, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters issued tornado warnings, meaning that conditions were ripe to produce a tornado, for the District and suburbs until 9 p.m. Thursday.

In College Park, University of Maryland officials issued a series of warnings alerting the campus that tornadoes could be imminent, but no such activity arrived and no damage was reported, said Capt. Marc Limansky, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. The alerts were based on forecasts from a commercial weather service and were sent as a precaution, Limansky said.

The storms mainly produced heavy rains in the District and Fairfax County, particularly in the Annandale and Great Falls areas. Authorities reported poor visibility for drivers and some ponding of water on roadways, but no major road closures. Late last night, the weather service reported that authorities shut down roads in the Sterling area as a second band of storms rolled through the area after 9 p.m.

In the District, firefighters responded to a partial collapse of a duplex under renovation in the 4800 block of New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest, but no one was injured, said Lon Wall, a fire department spokesman. It was not immediately clear if the storm caused the failure.

Dominion power reported about 7,300 customers without power as of about 8:30 p.m., with significant outages in the Reston area and in Stafford County.

A static front parked north of District, near the Mason-Dixon line as heat and humidity levels rose throughout the day and those circumstances combined with a system that moved in from the southwest, which created storms and the potential of tornadoes, the National Weather Service said.

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Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.


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