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The tornado that hit St. Mary’s County on Thursday, June 13, traveled from the Potomac to the Patuxent, according to a report from the National Weather Service, a distance of almost 14 miles.
It was the second-longest tornado path to hit St. Mary’s in the 63 years of national record keeping. A young man said this week that the storm’s winds actually knocked him down.
The weak tornado, rated an EF-0, originated in the 7th District and ran to the Esperanza Farms neighborhood in Lexington Park. The cyclone “traversed nearly the entire width of Saint Mary’s County,” the National Weather Service’s report issued Wednesday afternoon said.
“Damage was intermittent along the path and was confined to tree damage and damage resulting from downed trees. Numerous large trees were uprooted and some trees were topped,” the report said. Its winds reached a maximum of 75 mph with a maximum width of 200 yards.
Brandon Dillow, 22, was outside reading when his cellphone alerted him to the tornado warning at his parents’ waterfront home in the Esperanza Farms neighborhood. He went inside to turn off electronics and came back outside to “tie up loose ends,” he said.
“The storm came up really quickly. I could see a wall of wind raging,” coming across Lewis Creek, he said. He turned to run and, “I actually was picked up a bit and it threw me back a bit, over five feet. I was off the ground,” he said.
He said he’s been through hurricanes, but “I never experienced wind like this before. It was a scary 30 seconds. I guess I have a new respect for Mother Nature,” he said.
Another tornado hit Montgomery County the same day and stayed on the ground for 18 miles, which The Washington Post called one of the longest on record in the Washington, D.C., area. The National Weather Service began keeping records on tornadoes in 1950.
The longest track in St. Mary’s County was on Sept. 5, 1979, when a tornado straddled the western shore of the county for 17 miles, said Greg Schoor, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. After the last week 13.8-mile tornado, the next longest paths in St. Mary’s were 4 and 3 miles, he said.
The longest path of a tornado in Maryland was the F-4 fatal tornado that struck La Plata on April 28, 2002, which tore through 38 miles of Charles and Calvert counties before it crossed the bay.
When tornadoes do hit St. Mary’s, usually “they’re not that very long-lived,” said John Zyla, Ridge weather observer. It is unusual to have one cross the entire county, he said.
“As reported by [the National Weather Service] this tornado path was almost 14 miles long. We are extremely fortunate that there were no reported injuries,” said Bob Kelly, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services and Technology.
Tornadoes have been frequent visitors to St. Mary’s County. On April 28, 2011, a 90-mph tornado stretched 3.3 miles from the Breton Bay neighborhood in Leonardtown to Cedar Lane Road, damaging 17 properties.
Homes were damaged and 24 barns were destroyed across Helen, Chaptico, Mechanicsville and Morganza on May 8, 1984, when two tornadoes hit. St. John’s School in Hollywood was minimally damaged by a tornado on Jan. 27, 1967.
A 70-year-old woman was killed when her house collapsed at St. Jerome Creek when a tornado struck on Aug. 19, 1939, according to the National Weather Service.
Two men were killed at Potomac River Farm in Breton Beach on March 8, 1912, by a tornado that went from St. Clement’s Island through Medley’s Neck in Leonardtown to where Leonardtown Middle School is now, according to the St. Mary’s Beacon newspaper.
A mother and her two children from Baltimore were drowned at Sotterley Wharf in Hollywood when the warehouse there was blown over by a tornado on Aug. 2, 1899, according to the Beacon.