DAY 1 | 10 Years Ago
10 Years Ago: Synopsis of Events and Science Behind the Storm
By: Josh Owens (MWC) and Jason Mitchell (Foot’s Forecast) | Laurie’s story as written by: Nikki Byers (Foot’s Forecast)
April 28, 2002…a day that will live forever in the minds of the people of LaPlata. That day, a tornado with wind’s that reached over 200 mph roared through downtown and leveled buildings, homes, and sadly even lives. The storm started in the Shenandoah Valley as part of a powerful system that cause the Storm Prediction Center to issue a moderate risk over the mid Atlantic. The system as a whole spawned close to 50 tornadoes (Read more). Earlier that day, a warm front had lifted northward into the northern Mid Atlantic, while a cold front approached from the west. This put Southern Maryland in the “warm sector” of the system, and other factors were in place to allow for severe thunderstorm development later. This particular thunderstorm cell became what is known as a supercell, or a long lived dangerous, rotating storm that has the potential to produce tornadoes. It actually produced one weaker tornado before the LaPlata event.
The supercell crossed the Potomac River into Charles County where it entered perfect conditions for tornadoes. The cell produced its second, and most powerful and long lived tornado. It touched down in Maurbury MD at around 7:00pm. On the Fujita Scale, which ranks tornadoes on a scale from F0 to F5 based on damage, the storm spawned a small F1 tornado with winds near 100 mph. Then the storm grew in strength as it roared towards LaPlata, there it reached its strongest point with an official ranking of F4 with winds in access of 250 mph, although other observation’s from other Meteorologists say it was damage that only a F3 tornado would do, with winds around 200 mph. It entered downtown demolishing multiple buildings and taking the life of one person. The worst damage observed from this system as a whole was in downtown La Plata and in Dorchester County MD, across the bay, where F3 damage was reported.
After the tornado destroyed most of LaPlata’s downtown, it continued across Charles County across the Patuxent River into Calvert County where it destroyed some homes and did little other damage as the storms life was past its prime. Then the storm traveled over the Chesapeake Bay as workers at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant watched and snapped stunning photos of the vortex, it was reoprted that the storm had spawned a secondary tornado along with the main funnel. The Storm then even caused damage on the eastern shore, as noted before, before its death later that night around 9:00pm before reaching Salisbury. In the end, the storm left many families with destroyed homes, business owners without a business, over and sadly three people dead.
After further study of the storm, it was concluded that the tornado was the strongest tornado to hit the state of Maryland on record. Today in LaPlata, the Star Garden sits as a monument to the three who lost their lives in 2002 and also to school children whom lost their lives in a strong tornado that raided LaPlata in the early 1900’s.
Ten years after the storm, life in LaPlata is the same or even better than before the tornado, but the scars of the storm are still existent in the town, reminding the citizens in and around LaPlata of the threat that always exists when severe weather is near.
First Hand Account of the Storm from Laurie as written by Nikki Byers (Foot’s Forecast)
Laurie from True Value Hardware in Charlotte Hall Maryland, lived right across the street in a neighborhood that was not affected by this violent tornado. Although he was not affected, he could see this tornado outside his window. It was just a normal evening at his residents, where he was watching television with his wife. A tornado warning popped up on the television and he hurried along getting his wife and dog down to the basement of their 3-story home. After getting them down into the basement, his dog would not sit still and ran back upstairs. As he went after his dog, he looked out the window and he could see debris flying around and could hear how powerful the winds were, just by the windows rattling. The first thing I asked him was “what did it sound like?” That is the common questioned asked by many. His response was “It sounded just like a freight train.” After the storm passed, he had tried going out around the area to get some photos of what this violent tornado left behind, but many roads were closed off due to debris all over the road. He was able to get photos of his neighborhood, which had debris and hail in many of the yards around him. As he was describing the hail and showed me photos, we came to the realization that they softball size hail. The next day, he was able to go out and roam LaPlata more and he was able to get photos of the damage. He was devastated by all the damage this F4 tornado caused. This tornado destroyed a local bank, hardware store, KFC, homes and many buildings. What we all found most interesting was how there were bank statements found from a local bank in LaPlata, all the way on the Eastern Shore.
|Supercell storm that spawned thetwister as seen from the air.(Taken by Steven Maciejewski)|
|Path of the tornado before it entered the Chesapeke|