Severe storms trigger flooding in Maryland, tornadoes in Ohio

WEATHER NEWS: Severe storms trigger flooding in Maryland, tornadoes in Ohio

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Severe storms erupted in the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic late Wednesday afternoon and evening, producing several tornadoes and areas of flooding.

In Ohio, a tornado west of Columbus caused parts of a distribution center to collapse. In Maryland, a cloudburst inundated a popular concert venue, postponing the performance of pop singer Halsey.

The turbulent weather in Ohio and Maryland occurred on a day in which the National Weather Service received more than 300 reports of severe weather from New Mexico to New Jersey; the agency had warned that more than 90 million people faced an elevated threat of dangerous storms.

Several tornadoes touched down in the Buckeye State, according to the Weather Service, at least two of them causing structural damage.

In Maryland, up to 2 to 4 inches of rain fell in less than two hours — deluging Washington, D.C.’s northern suburbs. Multiple flash flood warnings were issued, with areas of high water reported in Laurel, Columbia and Ellicott City, where two devastating floods have struck in recent years.

Two tornado warnings were also issued in Maryland, and the National Weather Service is surveying damage Thursday to evaluate whether twisters touched down.

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The heavy storms that walloped parts of Maryland — both north and southeast of the Washington region’s Capital Beltway — downed trees, caused streams to overflow and forced road closures.

North of the Beltway, the zone between Laurel and Ellicott City, including Columbia, was hardest hit. In Columbia and Elkridge, the Howard County Police Department closed multiple roads because of high water.

Downpours drenched the Halsey concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, which was called off after water poured through the ceiling and swamped the pit adjacent to the venue’s stage.

Halsey tweeted that she wanted to proceed with the concert “more than anything” but was unable to “because it would have been SO unsafe.”

Amid the torrential rain, a tornado warning was also issued for Columbia and areas to the northeast at 8:39 p.m. before being discontinued 12 minutes later after storm rotation eased. There were several reports of tree damage in Columbia, but it was not yet clear whether it was caused by a twister.

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To the north, flood sirens sounded in Old Ellicott, City but only minor flooding was reported in the area. Howard County Police closed streets in the area as a precaution.

Just three minutes after issuing the tornado warning near Columbia, the Weather Service also issued a warning in Southern Maryland for portions of north central St. Mary’s County and southern Calvert County. It received numerous reports of tree damage near Mechanicsville in St. Mary’s County, where there were also reports of hail.

Wednesday’s most significant tornado was probably one that struck near Tipp City, Ohio — which is about 70 miles west of Columbus.

The twister caused major damage to the Meijer Distribution Center; social media photos showed parts of the facility flattened. No injuries were reported from the incident.

The National Weather Service rated the Tipp City tornado as an EF-2 on the 0-to-5 scale for twister intensity.

The Weather Service also reported structures damaged near Sardinia, Ohio, about 45 miles east of Cincinnati, from a separate twister.

The trigger for the storms

Both the tornado- and flood-producing storms erupted near a warm front draped across the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic that served as the transition zone between muggy air to the south and cooler air to the north. An approaching high-altitude disturbance embedded within the jet stream also energized the storms.

While Ohio was under a tornado watch when the twisters spun up, the rotating storms that developed in Maryland were more of a surprise. A narrow ribbon of shear — or turning winds with altitude — sneaked into the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday night promoting some spin in the storms that formed.

While the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic catch a break from storms on Thursday, the Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center has declared an elevated risk of severe storms for nearly 30 million people from the Central Plains to the Southeast, where damaging winds and hail are possible. Parts of the Plains also face an elevated threat of excessive rainfall and flooding.

He survived Sharpiegate. Now he’s heading the Weather Service.

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