Saturday, August 29, 2009

Possible Microburst Hits Area of Bowie

I woke up just before 4:00am Friday morning to the sound of rain pelting the bedroom window and thunder in the distance. The rain became more heavy, and there were some gusts of wind. At one point, the wind became constant, fierce and very loud. I quickly pulled the blinds away from the window, and I couldn't see anything other than a rain soaked window screen. Normally I would see our neighbor's bright outdoor lights. I'm not generally one to hide in the closet during a storm, but I'd never seen anything like this. I said to my wife something like, "my god, I think we need to get the kids and go downstairs!" The power went out, and the wind stopped. We had a period of maybe 15 to 20 seconds where the wind was constant and loud - not like the typical wind gusts where you can hear the wind speed and direction alternate.

I phoned in the power outage using the BG&E automated line to give them quick notice. The computer generated voice said that the outage had already been reported, and I could expect power to be restored by 6:30am. Ha. I know an overly optimistic estimate when I hear one. I went back to sleep.

In the light of day, I could see that the storm left damage.

This is the house next door. This tree snapped about 30 feet up, fell on the roof of the house above one of the bedrooms, and rolled off the house and onto the cars.

This shows where the tree snapped.

This is one of the trees in our backyard.

This is another tree in our back yard. Prior to the storm, this tree was about 80 feet tall. The top 40 feet snapped off and landed nicely in the overgrown area at the rear of our yard.

Here's where the top 40 foot portion landed. How convenient. I knew that this tree was dying, so I'm not surprised that it went.

Here is another tree down in the front yard of a neighbor's house up the street.

A pine tree blocks the road further up our street.

I came across a City of Bowie crew already removing a tree from the road around the corner from our house at 8:00am.

Bowie City Manager David Deutsch said that the damage was restricted to the Whitehall, Chapel Forge and Meadowbrook sections - a cluster of neighborhoods just North of Maryland Route 450.

The four trees that toppled on our street were all blown down in the same direction.

The following characteristics make this event consistent with a wet microburst:
  • Heavy rain
  • Short duration
  • Heavy, straight winds
  • Damage localized to a single area
  • All damage consistent with wind blowing in one direction.

BG&E's estimate kept changing throughout the day. At one point, they indicated that they were receiving a new outage report. The power was finally restored over 16 hours later.


  1. Wow, that's a crazy storm. I'm glad you guys are okay. Better call around and check on some of the others. Take care...

  2. L.A., Everyone is safe and sound. I even got to meet a previously unknown neighbor from behind our property. She stopped by to let me know that my downed tree smashed part of her fence. Oops. It was taller than I thought.

  3. Sure looks like a microburst to me, especially since it's localized.

    And people say that global warming is a myth.

  4. Intrepid, Not sure why I called you L.A. earlier. L.A. is a person on another blog that I read. I must have been thinking about those pictures of the fire and smoke on your blog. Sorry to hear that your vacations are over.

    Bob, I heard that extreme weather is caused by health care reform. Do I have my facts wrong?