Fluvanna County Tornado

The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado touchdown in Fluvanna County on Labor Day. Here's some of the science behind what happened.

Late in the afternoon on Labor Day, we began hearing many reports from viewers about a possible tornado in Fluvanna County in the Bybee area. Damage occurred at an area church and many trees and limbs were snapped off. One of our viewers was able to record video of what looked like a potential tornado tracking through this area. The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Virginia looked over the video and decided to send a team to do a damage survey, to ultimately determine what exactly caused the damage. On Wednesday afternoon, they released their official report which confirmed the touchdown of a tornado in the area.

Ranking: EF-0
Maximum estimated winds: 60 - 70 miles per hour
Path width: 100 yards
Path length: 0.8 miles

This was a relatively weak tornado, causing only minimal damage. A church in the area had some damage to the steeple and roof and a few trees and limbs were taken down. Fortunately nobody was injured or killed by this tornado.

Although the twister didn't come with much warning, the atmosphere was conducive to brief tornadoes. There was a lot of spin in the atmosphere from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. We also had winds changing direction with height because of a stationary front in the area. With so much spin in the atmosphere, even weak thunderstorms are able to briefly bring some of that rotation down to the surface in the form of short-lived tornadoes.

Even though we have radars constantly scanning the skies, the rotation in this case was a bit too weak and a bit too far away from the radar site to be detected effectively. At greater distances from the radar site, the radar beam points higher and higher in the sky - essentially overshooting the thunderstorms. Since the rotation in this case was so low to the ground and so weak, the radar beam was simply looking above the rotating part of the storm. This can make these types of tornadoes very difficult to detect. That's why it's always important to remain alert and pay close attention to your surroundings. If you see what you believe to be a funnel, don't take a chance. Head to your basement or an interior room with no windows, just to be safe.

If you live in the area, we would like to hear your account of the storm. How did the sky look? Did you hear it coming? What damage did you see on the ground?

Until next time,


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