A History of Tornadoes in the Washington, DC, Area

Montgomery County has seen 18, Prince George's 21 since the late 19th century.


The metropolitan Washington area has experienced a surprising number of tornadoes over the past 200 years, according to data from the National Weather Service Forecast Office.

While the severity of most tornadoes to strike the DC area pales in comparison to that of the recent devastating tornado in Oklahoma, 18 recorded tornadoes have touched down in Montgomery County. The first reported tornado was in 1879, including one as recent as 2001.

The majority of those weather events, 15, were F0/F1 on the Fujita scale, with winds of 40 to 72 mph, but three have been F2/F3 with winds from 113 to 206 mph. Four people have died and 24 have been injured, with damages costing $1,383,000.

In Prince George’s County, the first recorded tornado was in 1888. The most recent was in 2001. Of the 21 total tornadoes, 13 were F0/F1 and 8 F2/F3. The tornadoes have caused three deaths, 22 injuries and $12,460,000 in damages.

Washington, DC, has seen eight tornadoes between 1814 and 1995, with half F0/F1 and half F2/F3. More than 70 people have been injured and damages have been more than $350,000.

The strongest recorded tornado to hit Maryland was an F4 (winds of 207 to 260 mph) in Charles and Calvert counties, with ground zero in LaPlata on April 28, 2002.

The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog recently looked into tornado warnings and actual tornadoes, finding that the National Weather Service has issued 360 tornado warnings from 2002 to the present for an area that includes Maryland, Washington, DC, and portions of Virginia. During that same period, nearly half of those warnings (179) resulted in confirmed tornadoes (although some tornadoes occurred without warning), The Post reported.

June, July and September tend to be the most common months for tornados in the region, based on data from 1950 to 2011, The Post reported.

Just one tornado warning has been issued in the area so far in 2013.


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