I'm sure many Baltimoreans remember the EF-1 tornado that touched down 11 years ago in Baltimore City and Baltimore county. A line of showers and storms moved through the Mid-Atlantic region on the morning of November 17, 2010. As the line of thunderstorms rolled through Baltimore City at 70 mph, an intense downburst of wind (Rear-Inflow Jet) quickly rushed to the surface. According to the National Weather Service, this downburst broke the line of thunderstorms into two separate lines with a swirling wind forming on the southern end of the northern line of storms. This is what helped spawn the brief EF-1 tornado in northeast Baltimore City. The path of damage was 5 miles long. The EF-1 tornado had estimated winds of 100 mph and was 250 yards wide. Thankfully, there were no reported fatalities but 3 people suffered minor injuries.
There was plenty of wind damage along the 5-mile path, and most of it was from straight-line winds, referred to as a "macroburst". According to the National Weather Service, there were two separate areas of damage from the EF-1 tornado within a 1/2 mile apart. The first location was near the Dutch Village Apartment Complex where there was extensive tree damage, a roof blown off, and multiple cars were shifted. The second area the EF-1 tornado hit was the Perring Parkway Shopping Center in Parkville. There were multiple eyewitnesses, surveillance footage of flying debris, and downed trees and light poles. The National Weather Service stated that the macroburst completed its path of damage in 4 minutes and the EF-1 tornado was only on the ground for no more than 1 minute!
Most of us are familiar with tornadoes, but what is a "macroburst"?
Let's start off with the term "downburst". You must start off with a potent thunderstorm that has a very solid updraft.
The updraft begins to weaken in nature as cold air filters into the center of the thunderstorm. Since cold air is more dense than warm air, it wants to sink.
A strong area of downward moving air is associated with the downdraft of a thunderstorm, which rushes towards the surface. Once the downdraft makes it to the surface, it is forced to spread out in all different directions...this is known as a downburst. Downbursts are also known for creating "straight-line wind damage" which can be just as threatening as tornadoes. Straight-line winds can cause significant damage from 1-250 miles from the center of the downburst.
A "macroburst" is a downburst that spans larger than 2.5 miles wide. A "microburst" is a downburst that spans less than 2.5 miles wide.