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September 15, 2011

"Funnel cloud" causes minor damage at OC

Ocean City officials are reporting only minor damage and no injuries after a windstorm described as a "funnel cloud" swept across the island near 75th street Thursday afternoon.

"There was some damage, but nothing widespread," said Donna Abbott, the spokeswoman for the OC tornadotown. "There is a building here and there with roof damage or some siding damage ... Building inspectors are double-checking some building sin the area."

The most significant damage appeared to be to the roof of a three-story condo building at 75th Steet and the ocean front. The damage is over the elevator shaft, which had to be shut down, limiting access to the top two floors.

"Building inspectors require egress from two areas on a floor," Abbott said. So 11 people on those floors had to be relocated to other units. Repairs are expected to be finished Friday.

"Everything else around town is fine. We're very lucky," Abbott said.

The National Weather Service office in Wakefield, Va. received reports of a "funnel cloud" or aWaterspout off OC Maryland waterspout at mid-afternoon in Ocean City. "We are unable to confirm any tornado damage," said meteorologist Mike Montefusco. "We're going to have to go up and look at it." Or, they could check out this video from Matt Buerhaus.

UPDATE, SEPT. 19: The National Weather Service has confirmed that this was an EF-0 tornado, with top winds of 60 to 70 mph.  The path on the surface was 40 yards wide and half a mile long, causing "minor damage" but no injuries. Earlier post resumes below:

Forecasters received reports wind damage to "awnings and marquees" at 75th Street on the ocean front, and elsewhere between 65th and 90th streets.

"We had some ... sightings of a water spout and funnel clouds," he said. But for now, "we're calling it thunderstorm wind damage."

The NWS has posted thunderstorm warnings for the offshore area southeast of Fenwick, Del. around 3:38 p.m. Meteorologist Dan Proch, also at Wakefield, said, "There was a cell that formed over the area very quickly and moved offshore very quickly also."

Were you there? Send us a comment and describe what you saw. Have a photo? Email it to me at

UPDATE, Sept. 19: Diane Burton was there, staying at the Coral Seas, at 76th and the Bay. She sent me this account:

"Our condos suffered a lot of damage. On the rooftop pool deck, the glass panels were shattered as well as panels on other floors that left glass all over the ground. The underneath where the parking is had several pieces of siding thrown with insulation hanging out of it.

"My husband's heavy duty truck with a 6x12 trailer attached to it was lifted off the ground and moved. The sound was like a freight train when it passed and friends watched it go out to sea."

(PHOTOS: Top, Tamara Ivan, from 57th street; Bottom: Unknown photographer, via Ken Burkhammer)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:43 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Tornadoes


I was not at the beach but my parents are there. They were one of the 11 people evacuated on 75th street (Ocean Villa). The back window of my Dads truck got busted out by the storm....scary!

I hate to tell Mr. Buerhaus he is incorrect, but I have to.

A funnel cloud is a funnel cloud, not a tornado, until it touches the ground (or water). ONLY after it touches the Earth's surface can it be called a tornado.

And size of the funnel cloud does not make it a tornado or not. It can be short, fat, tall, skinny, twisted, wedge-shaped, but until it touches the Earth's surface, it is a specific type of cloud - a funnel cloud, not a tornado.

Hi Mike,

I'm Mr. Buerhaus who shot the video Frank posted above. I appreciate the heads up about the true definition of a tornado. I'll admit, when you don't see things like this every day, or don't have the time to 'wiki' the true definition of a tornado while you're busy taking video of the actual event (in harms way) so folks like you sitting back home can have an opportunity to capture a glimpse of things, I suppose it can easily be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

But, to the layman, it was a tornado. If you get 12" of snow but the winds don't exactly reach 'blizzard' conditions, most folks are going to call it a blizzard anyway.

Even then, if you'd like to get technical, the funnel cloud I filmed clearly touched the water, making it a waterspout (a tornado over water). Then, thanks to trees and other buildings blocking the ground-level view (and a perspective challenge from the end of the Rt. 90 bridge), it was hard to tell if the funnel cloud was reaching the actual ground surface. That is until I found this video, which clearly shows the funnel cloud touching the ground in Ocean City in the vicinity of 75th street (filmed by Pamela Veschio from Pittsburgh PA). This should be the evidence to correctly label this anomaly as a tornado:

The damage around the 75th street area was pretty extensive too... windows busted out, dumpsters toppled over, one building lost part of it's roof, permanent business street signs destroyed and trees uprooted.

Hope the additional video helps the powers-that-be label this anomaly correctly!

Mike, to clarify one thing: A tornado can reach ground and have damaging effects without the "black" part of a cloud reaching the ground. The bottom part of many tornadoes appear to not "touch the ground" because of debris or dust kicked up at the ground looking like a lighter dust cloud, but the damage is still there.

I witnessed this effect several times in Arizona last month when "dust devils" (a similar effect, albeit with different causation) demonstrated this propensity. I chased a couple dust devils larger than some of the tornadoes I've witnessed in Maryland.

The waterspout seen in these photos and video match all the videos of waterspouts I have seen, with a white "fog" at water level and a darker funnel above it. Because of the water vapor and weather conditions at the time, it packs terrific visual impact but minimal damage--probably an F-0 on the Fujita scale.

Just updated the footage:

At 4:06 there is supplemental footage from a different vantage point showing the tornado touching the ground in Ocean City and crossing the island.

At 5:23 there is some footage of the damage sustained taken the day after.

Mr. Buerhaus,

1. I am NOT a meteorologist;

2. I grew up in NE Indiana, so I am somewhat familiar with tornadoes (one of the Palm Sunday 1965 tornadoes [an F4] touched down in the county I lived in at the time;

3. NE Indiana has several tornado watches and warnings each year;

4. A tornado (probably an F0 or F1) went through my grandfather's farmyard (less than 300 feet from his house) during the 1950s, damaging a couple of 'out' buildings on his farm, and also crashing through a mink farm in the area (a major reason there are populations of 'wild mink' in NE Indiana);

5. I did NOT need to check with 'wiki' or any other source to find the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado.

I don't doubt that the funnel cloud touched down, thus becoming a tornado (and a funnel cloud and/or tornado are visible ONLY because of moisture and/or debris in the rotating winds), but it is a funnel cloud, no matter the size, until it touches down. THEN and ONLY then does it become a tornado. Otherwise, it is a 'funnel cloud', no matter the size or not.

Hey Mike,

1. I didn't say you were.

2. I grew up in Baltimore.

3. MD have several tornado watches and warnings each year.

4. Sorry to hear people are still killing minks.

5. I did not either. I was caught up in the moment.

You're last paragraph makes no sense. You're contradicting yourself. You obviously said what I saw was a funnel cloud, and not a waterspout our tornado. At the end of the day, I saw a tornado. And so did everyone else that saw my video. The national weather service says so:,0,1121092.story

National Weather Service has, indeed, declared this a tornado. The technical discussion has been interesting, though!


Really, Mike? Who really cares? Get off your high horse and stop showing off.

In watching the video, there was debris swirling past the car on the bridge. At around the same time, you can also see the trees in the video reacting to the presence of the twister. Tornadoes are funnel clouds but not all funnel clouds are tornadoes. This one happened to be both!

I was there, staying at Coral Seas on 76th and Coastal Highway and YES it was a tornado. It appeared to be a waterspout, tornado, waterspout. There was extensive damage done to the building where I stayed and my husband's truck which had a 6x12 ft. trailer attached to it was lifted off of the ground and moved, there were several vehicles parked on our street that had the windows blown out of them. The pool area of our condo was destroyed...several glass panels blown out, the underneath of the building where you park had insulation hanging out of the ceiling where the siding blew away and it sounded like a freight train blowing through, one of the units where friends were staying had their sliding glass door shattered. No matter what it was in your eyes "Mike", you weren't there to see it with your own eyes and experience it. Again, it was confirmed that it WAS a tornado.

Mike is quite the troll it seems. I just came back to post that it was in fact a tornado and his pompous know it all comments made me laugh audibly. The picture in this article is from my office. My apartment building on 68th street had blown out windows and I lost a few mailboxes. We got lucky for certain. About 12 years ago a wind shear came through that exact same area and cut the tops of the telephone poles off.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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