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LaPlata Tornado
May 09, 2002
The destructive path of a tornado is clearly seen as a bright stripe running from left to right in this image. Spawned by a severe thunderstorm on April 28, 2002, this tornado was classified as an F5 funnel cloud—the most severe category, with winds in excess of 260 miles per hour (425 km per hour). The powerful tornado touched down in southern Maryland and ripped through the town of La Plata, destroying most of the historic downtown. The twister—the strongest ever recorded to hit the state and perhaps the strongest ever recorded in the eastern U.S.—flattened everything in its path along a 24-mile (39 km) swath running west to east through the state.

The twister’s swath runs through the town of La Plata (left) and then eastward 6 miles (10 km) toward the Patuxent River beyond the righthand side of the image. The stripe is the result of flattening of the vegetation by the storm. The flattened vegetation reflects more light than untouched vegetation.

This panchromatic image was acquired on May 1 by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI), flying aboard NASA’s EO-1 satellite. EO-1 is the first Earth observing satellite launched as part of NASA’s New Millennium Program, designed to spearhead development and testing of a new generation of satellite remote sensing technologies for future Earth and space science missions.

image: Lawrence Ong, EO-1 Mission Science Office, NASA GSFC

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