How a surprise tornado struck Silver Spring on Monday afternoon

It came without a tornado warning, but was so minuscule it arguably couldn’t have been detected. A very small twister ripped through the Northwood Park neighborhood of Silver Spring on Monday afternoon, uprooting trees and snapping limbs, which damaged homes and cars.

While some homes were “rendered uninhabitable” according to a National Weather Service report, there were no injuries.

The twister was so small, short-lived and difficult to detect that no tornado warning was issued for the storm.

It was on the ground for less than a minute, from 3:48 to 3:49 p.m., over a path of just 0.2 miles. The National Weather Service estimated that it was at the most 100 yards wide with peak winds of 70 mph. For comparison’s sake, 70 mph are also considered general high-end severe wind gusts.

While no tornado warning was issued, a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect when the storm struck and the warning cautioned that wind gusts could exceed 60 mph and advised seeking shelter. In situations where these very small, difficult-to-detect tornadoes occur, a severe thunderstorm warning usually captures the hazards these storms pose. Their impacts are not discernibly different from strong straight-line thunderstorm winds or a microburst, in which the winds can be even stronger.

Forecasters emphasized that heavy rain and straight-line winds were the most likely hazards in Monday’s storms, but the formation of a very small tornado was not a total shock.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center’s convective outlook for Monday afternoon specified a 2 percent probability of tornadoes for…

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