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Environment & Science

Severe weather batters the region, enters the Lehigh Valley forecast for Thursday

Severe weather risk
This graphic from the Storm Prediction Center shows a marginal risk (1 out of 5) of severe weather Thursday.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Tornado warnings were issued across the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday night as a warm front surged through the region.

But it was in Maryland where a supercell spawned a long-track tornado that hit Poolesville and Gaithersburg, reports said.

The twister was spotted in a suburban area of Montgomery County northwest of Washington.

“I've intercepted 27 tornadoes in my career," meteorologist Matthew Cappucci said on X, sharing a photo of a large tornado on the ground.

"If you showed me this photo, I'd say Kentucky, Missouri or eastern Oklahoma. Welcome to Maryland when you have a Great Plains atmospheric environment,”

Cappucci warned early Wednesday that warm fronts were “not to be trusted. They impart extra low-level helicity (twist) on storms.”

Later, he identified five rotating supercell thunderstorms with mesocyclones (the part of the storm where warm, moist air spirals inwards/upwards) capable of producing tornadoes during the outbreak.

Lehigh Valley at risk Thursday

As a warm front cleared the area Thursday morning, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, indicated a “lull in the action” and a few breaks in the clouds by late morning into the early afternoon.

“This will allow temperatures to rise into the upper 70s to mid 80s across much of the area," the latest NWS forecast discussion said.

"It will feel awfully humid outside thanks to the high dew points, with heat indices in the mid 80s to near 90 in some spots during the afternoon.”

As temperatures surge, the main concern will be another round of showers and thunderstorms as a cold front approaches from the northwest.

As a result, the Storm Prediction Center has maintained a marginal risk (1 out of 5) for the region today, with the primary threat being damaging winds, not tornadoes.

Locally heavy rain is also possible, the SPC said.

Timing, impacts

Guidance indicates storms will fire as early as mid-day in parts of the region before tracking east-southeast through the afternoon, the weather service said.

“This isn’t going to be a widespread singular line coming through,” EPAWA meteorologist Bobby Martrich said in his latest video update.

“These are hit or miss, so not everyone is going to see this activity."

In terms of severe weather impacts, he also said that it would be a cold front later Thursday — not a warm front like Wednesday — with which the region would deal.

“If you have anything moving through that is going to be locally strong, it’s going to be in the form of straight-line winds,” he said.