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List of District of Columbia tornadoes: Map

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Although it is a relatively small geographical area and tornadoes are a rare phenomenon in the Mid-Atlantic region, Washington, D.C.marker has been hit by at least seven of these damaging storms since modern records have been kept. This list may be incomplete, as official tornado records only extend back to 1950 in the United States.

The surrounding states of Virginiamarker and Marylandmarker average 10 and 6 tornadoes per year, respectively, which is 0.23 and 0.48 tornadoes per per year. In the same time period (1953–2004), Washington experienced only two tornadoes. However, this works out to around 0.56 tornadoes per per year, which is a bit higher than the average for the surrounding area. The climatological peak for tornado occurrences in the area is in July, however most Washington tornadoes have struck in May, and they have formed as early as April and as late as November.

One tornado of particular historical significance is the 1814 storm. Although there is some debate as to whether this storm was a true tornado, it likely killed some British soldiers, heavy rains helped extinguish the fires set by the British, and the losses suffered contributed to their withdrawal from the city. More recent tornadoes have damaged several national landmarks, including the National Arboretummarker, United States Botanic Gardenmarker and the Smithsonian Institutionmarker. Another tornado occurred just two weeks after the September 11 attacks, narrowly missing The Pentagonmarker.

Tornadoes

  • August 25, 1814: A "most tremendous hurricane" struck the city during the Burning of Washington. There are few historical accounts of this event, and many sources disagree on the details. Some sources question whether this event was a tornado or a hurricane, however, most agree that it was a true tornado, and some maintain that it was a tornado followed closely by a hurricane. Whatever its nature, the storm tore the roofs from many buildings. Several cannons were thrown through the air by the violent winds. Thirty British soldiers and some residents were buried in the rubble, and several died. Damage to trees also occurred "higher in the country". The British Army left Washington soon after the storm, and heavy rains which accompanied the tornado helped extinguish the fires.


  • September 16, 1888: Around 3:15 pm, an F2 tornado tracked for along Maryland Avenue, unroofing two homes and damaging the Botanic Garden and the roof of the Smithsonian Institution.




  • May 14, 1927: A weak tornado produced minor damage near Capitol Street and Rhode Island Avenue. The funnel was not associated with a severe thunderstorm (a landspout), as no wind was reported outside of the damage area. A few trees were uprooted or damaged, with structural damage being limited to roof shingles and awnings, as well as a few tombstones knocked over.


  • November 17, 1927: A tornado touched down near Alexandria, Virginiamarker, and moved north-northeast across eastern parts of the District. It passed just 9 blocks east of the US Capitol Buildingmarker, and damaged or destroyed 150 homes before passing north into Maryland.




  • May 18, 1995: A tornado uprooted dozens of trees and inflicted $50,000 in damage on the National Arboretum.


  • September 24, 2001: Part of a series of tornadoes, a weak tornado passed near The Pentagon, crossed the Potomac, and damaged some trees in D.C. before dissipating near the National Mallmarker. Another funnel cloud passed over Union Stationmarker, but this would not touch down as a tornado until it reached Maryland.


References

  1. U.S. Tornado Climatology National Climatic Data Center Accessed 2009-02-14.
  2. Probability (%) of a Tornado in July (1980–1994)
  3. Ludlam, pg. 46
  4. Grazulis, pg. 555
  5. Grazulis pg. 645
  6. Grazulis, pg. 783
  7. Grazulis, 815

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