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Looking at Thursday’s damage, a tornado or not

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 11:07 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 7, 2020 at 9:17 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -A stalled front near the area this week has led to several rounds of rain.

Thursday afternoon as storms fired up across the area, these were slow moving and dropped an incredible amount of rainfall in a short time.

Flash flooding resulted, between Mount Crawford, Fort Defiance, Verona, and Mt. Sidney. Rivers and creeks are currently running extremely high right now. This is going to lead to another flooding risk on Friday with more storms.

Rainfall ranged from a tenth of an inch, to 3″ of rain.

In addition to torrential rain, we had two severe storms and one particular storm was especially severe.

Winds started picking up around Weyers Cave and Fort Defiance area especially around Dam Town Rd. This is where we believe the storm started to rotate and intensify quickly. This is a look at radar at the time and a hook looks to have taken shape. This is what we often see with rotating supercells, however in our area it’s extremely difficult to see on radar and often times a hook is not able to be seen on radar.

This is the rotating supercell that may have produced a tornado over Harriston
This is the rotating supercell that may have produced a tornado over Harriston(WHSV)
Storm damage reports
Storm damage reports(WHSV)

In the above photo, this is where shear was detected, right over Harriston, and this matches up with several damage reports. Shear is the changing of wind direction with height. This is what leads to rotating supercells and these storms can produce tornadoes.

This particular storm was a powerhouse. Wind speeds were indicated at 40-60mph, and may have been strongering considering the size of some very large trees that were uprooted.

So was this a tornado? We’ve been analyzing data with the National Weather Service this evening. They do suspect a tornado was possible, given the data on radar and the damage reports. It’s possible the storm over Harrisonburg merged with the storm that formed over Verona, and led to enhanced rotation.

We know the storm produced straight line wind damage and that damage in is Fort Defiance, and over Dam Town Road. Then things get interesting, and the storm really started to rotate as it approached Harriston.

The National Weather Service is sifting through photos and video. They may come out to the area to survey the damage in the coming days.

We will keep you updated. Thank you for sending in your photos and reports, but remember no photo or video is worth risking your life. Always remember to take shelter first if you are in the path of a severe storm or a tornado. Only once it’s safe to do so, then you can send in your reports.

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