On This Day in Frostburg History

June 2, 2015 Events  No comments

11377283_1136587183033799_77761648245337839_nON THIS DAY IN FROSTBURG HISTORY

Report by Barbara McNaught Watson

Tuesday, June 2, 1998 began with a moderate risk of severe weather for the area. A tornado watch was issued at 4:00 pm for western Maryland and portions of West Virginia. A second watch was issued at 6:30 pm for areas to the east in Maryland, extreme eastern West Virginia and northern Virginia.

Early in the evening, supercell thunderstorms developed over central Maryland. One dropped golf ball to tennis ball size hail in Montgomery County. Golf ball size hail moved east with the storm into Baltimore City. At this same time, tornadic thunderstorms were progressing southeast through western Pennsylvania. The storms were moving over the same area that was struck by tornadic storms just two nights previous.

Around 8:00 pm, one of these thunderstorms moved into Allegany County, Maryland. People began reporting sighting a funnel cloud to the county 911 center in Cumberland. The emergency operations center has is located on a hill top and has cameras mounted on a tower. They watched the progression of the funnel for 20 minutes. Over the next 3 hours, Three tornadic supercell thunderstorms (called mesocyclones) moved across western Maryland and the panhandle of West Virginia into Northern Virginia. One of these storms produced a 48 mile damage path that reached F4 as it crossed through the northern section of Frostburg, MD.

This thunderstorm produced a long-lived tornado that was on the ground for about 48 miles. The tornado began near Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, passed by Salisbury (which was hit 2 nights earlier by another F2 tornado) and then moved into Maryland. It hit Finzel in Garrett County first, rose up and over Big Savage Mountain in Allegany County and then headed for Frostburg. The tornado traveled up and down over several mountain ridges and valleys varying intensity between F2 and F3. Its intensity peaked at a low end F4 in Frostburg. Frostburg sits up on the Allegany Plateau at an elevation of around 2000 feet and the homes hit the hardest were exposed on the ridge tops to the tornados full force.

The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia issued a warning 9:40 pm, but had already verbally given the warning to the Allegany County Communications Center in Cumberland. With this verbal warning, Frostburg sounded its warning sirens. A fire crew from the Frostburg Fire Department saw the tornado coming over Big Savage Mountain. It appeared as three funnels…a multi-vortex tornado. They put the word out over the radio as they headed for cover. The tornado hit the northern outskirts of the city and continued east to Eckhart Mines. The tornado had been predicted in the warning to hit Frostburg at 9:45 pm and struck right on the mark. People interviewed that saw the warning made a special note of that.

On Armstrong Avenue, four homes were destroyed or heavily damaged and cars were tossed as the tornado moved down a hillside. To some extent, the steep sloping hill protected these homes from experiencing even greater damage similar to what occurred on the next rise. Here, several more homes were destroyed and more cars were tossed. One two-story house was completely gone. All that remained was the basement and the plywood for the first floor. The car that was in the garage laid upside down about 100 feet away in the back yard. The mother and two children in the house rode out the storm in their basement under a table. They were unharmed. In fact, no one was seriously hurt or in need of transport to the hospital. Everyone either got the NWS warning or heard or saw the tornado coming and headed to their basement.

Eckhart Mines had heavily damaged to both homes and businesses. A number of which were considered totally destroyed including a new daycare that had just opened the day before. The tornado crossed over Route 40 just east of Clarysville. It crossed Interstate-68, traveled over Dans Mountain flattening more trees. On the other side, the tornado ended just before hitting some residences along Route 53 about 2 miles north of Cresaptown.

In all, 29 homes were destroyed, 29 homes had major damage, 67 homes had minor to moderate damage. Threes businesses were damaged with one destroyed, Frostburg Elementary School had heavy damage and a church was damaged. Thousands of trees were destroyed.

The mesocyclone continued across Mineral and Hampshire Counties. It traveled just slightly south of the previous storm path. Funnel clouds were sighted as the storm passed. Several sightings came from the Fort Ashby area were one person said the spinning funnel was highlighted by lightning bolts coming out of it. As the storm crossed Frederick and Clarke Counties in Virginia one inch hail was again reported. The last severe report from this storm was golf ball size hail near The Plains in Fauquier County.

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