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Confirmed Tornado in Maryland Downs Tower at W3LPL Contest Station


[UPDATED: 2016-06-23 @ 1006 UTC] A confirmed Fujita scale EF-0 tornado touched down for up to 20 minutes in Howard County, Maryland, on the first full day of summer, taking down a tall AB-105 tower at the contest superstation of Frank Donovan, W3LPL. The tornado was just part of a spate of strong storms to hit the region, dumping heavy rain that caused flooding, and high winds that toppled trees and utility poles. Donovan’s station is one of the premier multi-multi contest sites in the US. He told ARRL that his location was "Ground Zero" for the twister.

“The storm was extreme,” Donovan said in a post to the Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC) reflector. “I’ve never experienced anything like it before. Essentially all of the trees in the front of the house and along the driveway are gone. Several power poles on Hobbs Road snapped. The 200 foot tower adjacent to the house collapsed, everything on it was destroyed.”

Donovan said he will have to do “a tremendous amount of testing and inspection” to determine what other damage may have occurred. Big Gun contester John Crovelli,W2GD, reported that he had spoken with Donovan, who told him that his other antennas were intact but “beat up.”

Crovelli said the huge Potomac Valley Radio Club/Columbia Amateur Radio Association W3AO Field Day operation was still on.

News media accounts said the tornado, which hit at approximately 1:30 PM in western Howard County, had top winds of 80 MPH — at the high end of the EF-0 range. The tornado was some 1500 feet across and traveled nearly 13 miles, according to the National Weather Service. No injuries were reported.

The NWS said that properties in the vicinity of the tornado’s touchdown “sustained tree damage with multiple trees snapped, uprooted, and topped in multiple directions.” Along its path, the twister “caused nearly continuous tree damage, with large trees and tree branches snapped, uprooted, and topped in multiple directions. The trees downed many power lines and blocked multiple roads. Some trees and large branches fell on homes and garages,” the NWS said.

Mike Lonneke, W4AAW, in Middleburg, Virginia, reported “tremendous tree damage” and roofs ripped from barns about a mile from his location. “Two 70 MPH storms in close succession hit Middleburg at 4 PM yesterday,” Lonneke said this morning. Thousands were left without power as a result of the tornado, severe storms, and heavy rainfall that hit the region west of Baltimore.

John Pescatore, K3TN, who is some 15 miles south of Donovan’s location, reported being “just clipped by the big storm.” He said 3 inches of rain fell in a 90-minute period. Some areas received hail.

QST “How’s DX?” Editor Bernie McClenny, W3UR, who lives next door to Donovan, reported that power was out at his location and “it could be several days” before it was restored. McClenny said the downed W3LPL tower collapsed away from Donovan’s house, and that a lot of trees and utility poles were down in his area. “Got the generator out and running,” he said.

The felled tower at W3LPL supported a 6 element 10 meter Yagi on a 48 foot boom at 200 feet, three stacked 9 element G0KSC 6 meter LFA Yagis on 52 foot booms at 48, 76, and 104 feet and a pair of 2 element 80 meter quads at 170 feet. Donovan told ARRL that plans "are well under way" to install a 200-foot heavy-duty AB-105 replacement tower in August.

Thousands of residents in the affected region remain without power. 



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