Can Supercell Thunderstorms form in our area?

Dateline article| David Murphy|

Yes, but it doesn't happen often. Usually, the South and Midwest have conditions more favorable for supercell formation. In fact, supercells are responsible for those major tornado outbreaks that occur in places like Oklahoma. As a weather reporter, I've covered two such outbreaks that produced mile-wide tornadoes. As you'd expect, the damage was devastating. Entire Oklahoma neighborhoods I visited were basically removed from the landscape.

Occasionally, supercells occur closer to home. In the spring of 2000, a supercell dropped large hail and damaged property in Montgomery County. In September 2001, a supercell in College Park, Maryland, killed two University of Maryland college students who had taken cover in a parked car, re-enforcing the idea that a car is not a good shelter when there's a tornado warning.

Overall, the size of tornadoes produced in our region by supercells are not as big as those in the Midwest, since the dynamics here are usually not as good. But they can still do plenty of damage.

---D.M.

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