For those attending the King Street Arts Festival this past weekend in Old Town Alexandra, the weather, highs in the low to mid 80s with low humidity, could not have been better.
A year ago, it was a different story. On Saturday afternoon, a line of thunderstorms swept across the region, producing lightning, high winds and downpours.
This past Thursday, NBC News 4 sent meteorologist Amelia Segal down to the foot of King Street to help promote this year’s event. An unidentified man was asked about last year’s event and said,
“There was a tornado.”
My memory of that day is not sharp, but that did not sound right. Still, I should have let it go, but there was just enough curiosity and desire to check it out.
I started my on-line search and came across this account from one the artists.
After hugs and kisses they gave me serious warnings about the storm that was coming. All of my clients were doing this starting after lunch. Around 3pm I overheard a police radio and asked the officer what the real report was and he told me that they would make an official call in 10 minutes but it looked bad. About 30 minutes later the Alan team was telling us to baton down. I was a corner booth in the direction the storm was coming so I was extra worried. I don't know the exact time but sirens went off and the police evacuated the streets and we were told to take cover. The sirens and the police over the loud speakers make it much scarier. Even my cell phone was blinking red and texting me that there was a tornado warning. The wind and rain hit fast and we all zipped up and got the heck out. The feeling of standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone staring at their tents through the lobby windows and saying Hail Marys in my head is one of the worst.
It seemed like forever, but actually was not that long, maybe 20 minutes I guess, the tornado warning was over. My tent and everyone else’s held!!!!!
We still had some wind and rain but the worst seemed to have passed. I didn't realize until the next day that my tent was a bit twisted. I probably will have to replace a couple of metal trimline parts, but that shouldn't cost me more than $100.
We were told we could go back to our booths if we wanted and open up, but if we didn't want to then we didn't have to.
I continued my search and found this piece from Del Ray Patch.
Saturday’s brief but violent storm caused some property damage in Alexandria and led to the cancellation of one day of the King Street Art Festival.
At around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, a tornado warning was issued for Alexandria and Arlington. Wind gusts of 58MPH were measured at Washington Reagan National Airport and rain fell for nearly 45 minutes. Fans at Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium for the T. C. Williams High School football game were evacuated from the stands as the second quarter began and the game was delayed for more than an hour. The King Street Art Festival, which was scheduled to be held on Saturday and Sunday, was cancelled for Saturday because of severe weather warnings.
At the height of the storm, Dominion Virginia Power reported 90,000 customers without power. Most power was restored by late Saturday night. A tree fell on a house on S. Overlook, rupturing a gas line in two places. Homes in the area of Chalfonte and S. Overlook were evacuated until Washington Gas arrived to make repairs.
A large tree fell blocking the street at Old Dominion and Canyon until Sunday afternoon when the Alexandria City Arborist was able to remove it. Another tree fell at the intersection of S. Overlook and Cameron Mills Road, blocking the road until late Saturday night.
Definitely a tornado warning, but does that mean a tornado was spotted?
It used to, but with the advent of radar, tornado warnings can also be issued if spin or hooks are detected on radar. In these cases, tornados may or may not form.
Next is was time to check in with the Capital Weather Gang.
I made this comment.
Great weather for the King Street Festival. Which beckons a question about last year's event. NBC4 interviewed someone on Thursday who in talking about last year, said "there was a tornado."
From what I remember, there were certainly high winds and it frightened folks, but did a tornado touch down?
Was a tornado warning issued? If so, was it from a sighting?
Camden, always helpful, replied.
Found our answer. Sept 8 2012. Dewpoints were at/above 70. Temperatures spiked to 90 or just above. Some instability moved into the region. Also check out great recording I found:
This you tube video shows high winds on what looks like I-95.
Thanks Camden. I found this Patch piece.
"There are unconfirmed reports that a tornado did touch down in Fairfax County possibly near Falls Church; officials are looking into it. (Update 8:26 p.m. - Fairfax County officials have confirmed that all damage was caused by straight-line winds and there was no evidence of a tornado or other rotating winds.)"
I added - That you tube labels it a tornado but I'm not sure it was.
Ok, now let's see what folks remember.
On Saturday, I chatted up a half-dozen of the artists. Two were not there last year. Of the four who remembered, two said they thought a tornado had touched down. Two said they thought it was just high winds.
I should also add one artist said the police did a very good job of evacuating the street. He also recalled two booths were knocked sideways into another.
Were there damaging winds at last year’s Arts Festival? Yes.
Were folks scared? I’m certain they were.
Is it a good practice to issue tornado warning based on radar? I think it is.
Was there a tornado at the King Street Arts Festival in 2012?
I’ll let you be the judge…