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Four State Region Tornado Climatology/History & Shelter Information

With the severe weather outbreaks in the Midwest over the past few weeks, and our own severe weather events, WHAG Meteorologist Bryan Tolle takes a look at Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia's Tornado Climatology, History and What kind of shelter you should take if a tornado & severe weather threatens area.

HAGERSTOWN, MD (WHAG) - The last few weeks have brought lots of severe weather to the United States, in specifically, the Midwestern United States, including flooding rains, large hail and tornadoes, and we in the Four State have had some of that as well as these frontal systems have made their way through the region, and in light of the damaging weather as of late, it is a good time to look back and learn from it, and how we can prepare ourselves and our families from destructive severe weather.

Climatologically, we normally do not see as violent of weather as they see in the Midwestern United States, but we have been known to see our times, where we do have some strong tornadoes in the State of Maryland.

Maryland ranks third for the most tornadoes per 10,000 square miles in the past few decades, as we sit in a favorable spot for tornadoes.  These conditions come together because we get down sloping winds off the mountains which enhances thunderstorms, while winds coming off the Chesapeake Bay help these storms turn tornadic.  Maryland also ranks higher in tornadic concentration than Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Tennessee and Alabama, which as we know from previous events all have had tornado outbreaks, but what helps us in Maryland is we are the ninth smallest state in the United States.

The States of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia has had numerous tornado events since 1992 (according to the National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington, D.C.):

August 1992: 11 Tornadoes - Thanks of the remnants of Hurricane Andrew passing over the area.

August 1993: 18 Tornadoes - Including the F4 Tornado that touched down in Petersburg, West Virginia.

July 1994: 21 Tornadoes total.

1995: 24 Tornadoes total, including 2 in Frederick County, MD (F0 & F1)

1996: 12 Tornadoes total, 9 of those in July, and included an F1 in Northeastern Washington County, MD, an F2 in Southern Washington County, MD and an F1 in Southwestern Frederick County, MD.

1998: 7 Tornadoes on June 2nd in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia

            F1: Somerset County, PA into Allegany County, MD

            F0: Allegany County, MD

            F1: Mineral & Hampshire Counties, WV

            F0: Clarke County, VA & Loudoun County, VA (2 Tornadoes)

            F2: Mineral & Hampshire Counties, WV

            F4: Allegany County, MD - Frostburg, MD.  (Information from the National Weather Service)

2008: F0 Tornado in Middletown, Frederick County, Virginia on Sunday April 20th.

2010: EF-0 Tornado South of Unionville, Frederick County, MD with winds of 80 MPH.

2011: 5 Tornadoes Total:

3 Tornadoes on April 28th - 2 in Allegany County, MD both of them EF-0, and 1 from Rockingham County, VA into Shenandoah County, VA - EF-2 with winds of 130 MPH.

            2 Tornadoes on May 17th - 1 in Maugansville, Washington County, MD rated an EF-1 with winds of 90-100 MPH, and the other in Wolfsville, Frederick County, MD rated an EF-0 with winds of 70 MPH.

2012: EF-1 Tornado 2 WSW Bellgrove, Allegany County, MD with winds of 80 MPH.

With the Four State Region have tornadoes just about every year, or every other year, whether they are weak or strong, and in light of the recent tornadoes in the Midwest, finding shelter during a tornado is the best thing to protect your life.  Meteorologist Brad Panovich's (Chief Meteorologist at WCNC-TV - NBC Charlotte, North Carolina) Blog posts about the scales of a tornado shelter, and how to move the odds of surviving any tornado up in your favor:

#1 Underground bunker, pre-built shelter, custom safe room or large bank vault. These will withstand even a monster EF-5 storm

#2 Basement, crawl space or other lowering inside a sturdy structure. The normally are safe in all instance but even here debris can collapse on you causing injury.

#3 Interior room with no windows with 2-3 walls between you and the outside in a strong framed structure. In almost all cases you will survive here with minimal injuries. Wearing a helmet will add in survivability.

#4 Interior room or bathroom on the lowest level in single story home or lighter constructed building. The building will likely sustain heavy damage but with a helmet or getting in a bathtub survivability is likely.

#5 Interior room on lowest level of a weak framed or strong manufactured home. Not a perfect situation but this may be the only choice and while injury is likely with head protection and anchoring survivability is possible. Especially in EF-0 to EF-2 storms.

#6 Strong, modern and heavy vehicle with seat belts and airbags trying to drive away from the path of the tornado. This is somewhat controversial but research has shown survivability is likely with modern crash cages and the safety features of modern vehicles. Convertibles or small cars are a no, no. This is not ideal but if you have time and in rural settings driving away can be an option. Especially if you are somewhere lower on this list. (source)

#7 Mobile home or weak manufactured home. These are mobile for a reason if a car or truck can tow your home than a 60-7mph wind can move it easily. The overwhelming majority of tornado deaths occur in manufactured homes. Get to a sturdy structure if at all possible but as a last resort interior room may save your life in weaker storms.

#8 In a ditch or low-lying area. This was something preached for years by safety officials and as a last resort can help. But water, lighting, wind and debris can still get you in these spots. Try to improve your situation if at all possible.

#9 Tents, temporary structures or picnic pavilions. In situations like camping, concerts or festivals get somewhere else fast. These structures provide little to no safety at all and often times the stakes and ropes become deadly missiles in even light winds.

#10 Out in the open, walking, running biking with nothing but you and the wind and debris. The worst possible situation to be in. You are betting off laying down or getting in a ditch. Which is far better than this situation. I hope you never find yourself in this situation.

Nevertheless, tornadoes and severe weather are nothing to play with, and if severe weather threatens your area, take the appropriate precautions to protect yourself and your family.

Stay with the WHAG Weather Team on Facebook and Twitter for the latest details during any severe weather event...

Meteorologist Bryan Tolle:  Facebook / Twitter
Meteorologist Alan Auglis:  Facebook / Twitter
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