List of Washington, D.C. tornadoes
Although it is a relatively small geographical area and tornadoes are a relatively rare phenomenon in the Mid-Atlantic region, Washington, D.C., 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 Virginia and Maryland average 10 and 6 tornadoes per year, respectively, which is 0.23 and 0.48 tornadoes per 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) per year. In the same time period (1953–2004), Washington experienced only two tornadoes. However, this works out to around 0.56 tornadoes per 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) per year, which is a, not statistically-significant, higher than 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, while some 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 Arboretum, United States Botanic Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution. Another tornado occurred just two weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001, crossing the National Mall and narrowly missing the Pentagon.
- August 25, 1814: A "most tremendous hurricane" struck the city during the Burning of Washington during the War of 1812. 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 storm helped extinguish the fires. At least thirty people died.
- September 16, 1888: Around 3:15 pm, an F2 tornado touched down between 9th Street NW and 10th Street NW, and it tracked for 2 miles (3.2 km) along Maryland Avenue. It unroofed two homes, damaged the Botanic Garden, and damaged the roof of the Smithsonian Institution. There were no injuries or deaths.
- April 5, 1923: At around 3 p.m., an F3 tornado touched down in the northern Rock Creek Park, moving northeast into Maryland. The tornado tracked for 11 miles (18 km). Twenty people were injured, seven homes were destroyed, and twelve other homes were damaged. There were no deaths.
- May 14, 1927: An F0 tornado produced minor damage near North Capitol Street and Rhode Island Avenue at 6:00 p.m. The funnel was a landspout, not associated with a severe thunderstorm, 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. No one was injured, and there was only minor damage.
- November 17, 1927: At 2:25 p.m., an F2 tornado touched down southwest of Alexandria, Virginia. After damaging Alexandria, the tornado crossed the Potomac River and injured several people at the Anacostia Naval Air Station. The tornado crossed the Anacostia River and continued through the Navy Yard. From there, the tornado continued northward up Eighth Street Southeast and then turned a bit to travel north on Fourteenth Street near Lincoln Park. The tornado continued through the neighborhood of Kingman Park, where it demolished several homes. The tornado also damaged several Maryland suburbs, including Hyattsville, Bladensburg, Benning, and Colmar Manor. The tornado traveled about 15 miles (24 km) in all, including about 3 miles (4.8 km) in the District of Columbia. One person died from being struck by lightning while crossing a bridge; 49 other people were injured and 150 homes were either damaged or destroyed in the District. Dozens of families were made homeless from the tornado. The speed of the tornado's winds were estimated to be 125 miles per hour (201 km/h). Saint Cyprian Roman Catholic Church, located near Lincoln Park, sustained serious damage. An airplane hangar at Anacostia Naval Air Station was demolished along with the seven airplanes inside it. The tornado also tore the roof off of barracks at Anacostia Naval Air Station. Property losses were estimated to be $1,000,000.
- May 21, 1943: A waterspout formed over the Potomac River, moving on land near the Jefferson Memorial before dissipating without damaging any structures. Another funnel was also sighted, which may have touched down briefly near the National Naval Medical Center in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.
- May 18, 1995: At 1:22 p.m., an F1 tornado uprooted dozens of trees and inflicted $50,000 in damage at the National Arboretum. There were no injuries.
- September 24, 2001: During a series of tornadoes in the Washington region, a weak tornado passed near the Pentagon, crossed the Potomac, and damaged some trees in D.C. before dissipating near the National Mall. Another funnel cloud passed over Union Station, but this one would not touch down as a tornado until it reached the College Park and Beltsville areas of Maryland. Two people died and 57 were injured.
- A tornado, or possibly intense downbursts, struck the city on July 30, 1913 during a heat wave. Substantial damage occurred to some buildings and trees were downed throughout the city, including at The White House.
- In 2013, NewTV's Original Program The Folklorist produced a segment titled The Tornado that Saved Washington D.C. in reference to the August 25, 1814 during the War of 1812.
- "NCDC Storm Events". National Climatic Data Center. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
- U.S. Tornado Climatology National Climatic Data Center Accessed 2009-02-14.
- Probability (%) of a Tornado in July (1980–1994)
- Myatt, Kevin (2006-08-26). "Did tornado wreak havoc on War of 1812?". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- Watson, Barbara M. (1999-12-02). "D.C. Listing of Tornadoes". National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, Baltimore/Washington. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- Grazulis pg. 645
- Ludlam, pg. 46
- Grazulis, pg. 555
- "The 8 tornadoes recorded in D.C.". The Washington Post. May 21, 2013.
- "Miraculous Escapes As $100,00 Tornado Twists Silver Spring". The Washington Post. April 6, 1923. p. 1.
- Grazulis, pg. 783
- "Scenes After Tornado Swept Through Silver Spring With $100,000 Property Damage". The Washington Post. April 6, 1923. p. 5.
- "4 Injured in Tornado Reported Recovering". The Washington Post. April 7, 1923. p. 2.
- Samuels, L. T. (May 1927). "Washington, D. C., Tornado of May 14, 1927" (PDF). Monthly Weather Review. American Meteorological Society. p. 227. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- "One Dead, Hundreds Hurt and Homeless in Tornado That Strews Ruin in Capital from Alexandria to Maryland Suburbs". The Washington Post. November 18, 1927. p. 1.
- "Deputies Patrol in Colmar Manor to Avoid Looting". The Washington Post. November 18, 1927. p. 4.
- "Course Taken By Tornado Illustrated By Map". The Washington Post. November 18, 1927. p. 2.
- "City Speeds Work of Restoring Area Swept by Storm". The Washington Post. November 19, 1927. p. 1.
- "Tornado Dead and Injured". The Washington Post. November 18, 1927. p. 1.
- Grazulis, 815
- "Prayers of Thanksgiving Offered by Sufferers". The Washington Post. November 18, 1927. p. 5.
- "Aircraft Wrecked, Hangars Damaged, In Navy Air Station". The Washington Post. November 18, 1927. p. 2.
- "Thursday's Tornado". November 19, 1927. p. 1.
- "Event Record Details, 24 Sep 2001, 1606 EST". NCDC Storm Events database. National Climatic Data Center. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- Possible tornado struck Washington, D.C. and the White House 100 years ago
- Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680–1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
- Ludlum, David McWilliams (1970). Early American Tornadoes 1586–1870. Boston, MA: American Meteorological Society. ISBN 0-933876-32-7.