EF-1 tornado in Howard Co., severe weather leads to power outages throughout DC-area

A tornado touched down in Howard County, Maryland, Thursday night and after severe weather passed through the D.C. area, it left thousands without power in Northern Virginia Friday morning and some continue without power on Saturday.


In Northern Virginia, some 100 Dominion Energy customers are still without electricity Saturday.. The utility expects to restore service to most customers by Friday evening.

The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado touched down in Columbia at 3:34 p.m. An EF-1 tornado has wind speeds that are between 86 to 110 mph.

NWS said that the first evidence of damage was near the intersection of Brighton Dam Road and Maryland state Route 108 in Clarksville, where several trees were uprooted and branches were pulled toward each other and fell in multiple directions except westerly.

The tornado then moved east toward Columbia. NWS said that a witness saw the tornado knocking down trees, trees, swirling debris and uprooting and snapping most of the trees in the area of Cedar Lane and Corina Court, and Seneca Farm Road and Wayover Way.

The EF-1 tornado that touched down in Columbia, Maryland, on Thursday, May 23, 2019, snapped several trees and took a roof off a building. (Courtesy NWS)

But the most significant damage was on the 9400 block of Patuxent Woods Drive, where a grove of trees snapped midway up their trunks and an office building lost its roof, which blew east.

A NWS survey Friday in D.C. found inconclusive evidence for a tornado despite dozens of trees that fell in the Tidal Basin, the National Mall and areas southeast and northeast of D.C.

Howard County spokesman Mark S. Miller said in an email Thursday that there had been reports of many trees down along the northside of Maryland state Route 32 near Shaker Drive, and the National Weather Service surveyed the area to determine whether a tornado passed through.

Howard County Fire and EMS reported that a woman was hurt when a tree crashed through a house on the 10200 block of Wayover Way along Route 32.

Howard County Fire and EMS spokesman Adam Nolder said Thursday, that there were at least 17 calls for trees that fell down on houses. One call was made hours after the storm passed.

“Just because the storm is over doesn’t mean that more trees won’t fall,” Nolder said. Some trees may have been severely weakened by the storm and have the potential for falling, he said. He urges people to keep an eye on low-hanging trees.

Howard County firefighters from Fire Station 10 experienced the effects of a downed tree when two large trees fell on the station’s driveway. Because of the severity of the storm, they had to wait to remove the trees. When they were finally able to get the truck out, trees blocked both north and south of the firehouse on Old Columbia Road.

“Before they could go anywhere, they had to cut trees down,” Nolder said.

The weather service issued a tornado warning for Columbia around 3:31 p.m. D.C.; Arlington, Virginia; and Hyattsville, Maryland, were under a tornado warning for a time. At 3:46 p.m., the National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm capable of starting a tornado was located “over the U.S. Capitol, or over Nationals Park.”

Thursday’s storms moved fast but hit hard. More than 100,000 power outages were reported and downed trees blocked roads and affected the afternoon rush hour in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

A downed wire from a fallen tree in Rockville, Maryland, caused a fire.

At the National Mall, the National Park Service said that a recently repaired mulberry tree that was older than the Washington Monument was once again damaged when its temporary prop was moved by strong winds. The storm felled several other trees on the National Mall, including some of D.C.’s iconic cherry trees, NPS spokesman Mike Litterst told WTOP.

In Arlington, Virginia, there’s debris in Glebe Road from a huge oak tree blocked traffic between U.S. 50 and Henderson Road. Several power poles and wires were brought down by the tree. Repairs are ongoing.

Power outages in the area

For the latest weather and traffic information, visit WTOP’s Weather and Traffic pages.

WTOP’s Andrea Cambron contributed to this report.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up