Four Photos From the Worst Tornado That Ever Hit DC

After Wednesday's tornado warning, take a look back at a legendary Washington storm.
Four Photos From the Worst Tornado That Ever Hit DC
A November 1927 tornado that ravaged Washington caused $1 million in damage, or about $13.7 million in today's dollars. Photographs via Library of Congress.

The National Weather Service issued a brief tornado warning for much of the Washington area. While the alert was lifted without any funnel clouds being spotted, it did send locals into brief fits of caution. (Or Twitter alarmism, if that’s more your bag.)

Washington gets its share of tornado advisories, but actual sightings are exceedingly rare. The last big tornado to hit Washington came September 24, 2001, when a funnel cloud passed over Northeast DC and touched down in College Park, killing two and injuring another 57. (A smaller tornado earlier that day hit the National Mall but caused minimal tree damage.)

The most destructive tornado on local weather records happened back in November 1927, when a twister hit Alexandria before dragging across the Potomac and wreaking havoc on Southeast DC, especially around Navy Yard, before turning toward Northeast DC and Prince George’s County. Wind speeds were measured at up to 125 miles per hour.

When the storm finally abated, one person was dead from a lightning strike, while another 49 people were injured. All told, the tornado destroyed or damaged about 150 homes in the District, wrecked a hangar and seven airplanes at Anacostia Naval Air Station, and caused an estimated $1 million in damages, or about $13.7 million in 2014 dollars. Here are a few more scenes from the wreckage.

Debris being cleared up from rowhouses on A Street, Northeast.
The 1927 tornado sheared the tops off Capitol Hill houses.
The tornado completely wrecked a squadron of planes at Anacostia Naval Air Station.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.