National Weather Service officials said Saturday that a severe windstorm that ripped through the Baltimore area late Friday was, in fact, a tornado. The storm is blamed for the partial collapse of an Amazon warehouse that killed two contract workers.
So why was the weather so bad?
Accuweather meteorologist Dave Bowers said Saturday that the storm was the result of areas of warm and cold air colliding. The pattern was repeated up and down the East Coast, but the Baltimore area was one of the hardest hit.
Warm, wet air was hanging over Baltimore on Friday — the kind of air Bowers said is more typical of late August. At the same time, a storm in the Midwest was pulling cold air eastward. When the two met, the storm with its rain and punishing winds began.
“It’s just a very unstable setup,” Bowers said. “Warm humid air and a strong November cold front is just a recipe for nasty weather.”
Bowers said the pattern could be repeated Tuesday afternoon or evening, bringing heavy rain to the area again.
How do you determine that it was a tornado?
Bowers said radar data can indicate that a tornado occurred, but the only way to know for sure is to examine the debris the storm left behind.
The weather service crews look to see whether the debris appears to be scattered by turning winds — reflecting a likely tornado — or left in a straight pattern.
A team from the National Weather Service was on the scene Saturday afternoon, and shortly before 5 p.m. announced that the storm was, in fact, a tornado.