$15 million damage in storm Amid privation, a sense of luck

October 19, 1990|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Evening Sun Staff

Jeff Lipsitz and Debbie Thomas today walked around the command center set up at Franklin Middle School waiting, hoping to hear just when they might be able to re-enter their apartment.

"To tell you the truth, I'm a little upset," Lipsitz said. "Our apartment wasn't damaged that badly."

"We just want to spend a few moments there," Thomas added. "Get him a nice winter jacket."

But Lipsitz, wearing only a thin sweater and jeans, and Thomas said they both realized the police were "just doing their job." And more important, Thomas added, they realized just how lucky they were.

The couple, who are to be married next March, had just moved into the Chartley Park Apartments. They said tomorrow would have made three weeks since they moved into the year-old apartments.

"We've still got boxes packed," Lipsitz said.

"At least they're still there," Thomas added.

Many of the couple's neighbors were not as fortunate. A twister with winds of 75 to 100 mph struck the area yesterday about 4:30 p.m.

Lipsitz was home reviewing a paper for a class at Catonsville Community College when the twister hit.

"I never saw wind like that before," Lipsitz said. "I lifted up the blinds and I couldn't see anything. I couldn't see the apartments across from us."

Lipsitz said the two apartment buildings are only about 10 yards apart.

When the storm ended, Lipsitz went outside to see the damage. The apartment building that he could not see during the storm had had its roof ripped off.

"We know God was looking out for us," Thomas said.

Deborah Wells last night said God also was looking out for her 11-year-old son, Marvin, who was doing his homework and watching television when the tornado hit his apartment.

"I saw a tree fall in front of our house, and then the cars started moving," Marvin said. "I ran out of our house, but then I went back to get my rabbit. At first, I couldn't get him. I was scared."

Marvin was wrapped in a blanket, sitting next to his mother at the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Department last night. His last three words probably summed up the feelings of the other residents of the first and 100 blocks of Glyndon Drive, especially his mother.

"It was raining pretty hard," Deborah Wells said. "I didn't think anything of it, but when I got here, [authorities] weren't letting cars in. When I finally got down there [to her block] and I saw how bad it was, I was really afraid.

"I was scared. I didn't know where he was," Deborah Wells said of her son.

But Marvin was safe. After he had rescued his pet rabbit, Marvin ran to the laundry room in the basement of his apartment building. A student at Franklin Middle School, he said a teacher there had told him to seek shelter in a basement if a tornado struck.

The Wellses were lucky. Their apartment was hit only by a power outage. Still, they had to be evacuated because the apartment next door was without a roof.

About 30 detached homes and about 100 units at Chartley Park Apartments and Bentley Park Apartments are believed to have received major damage in the tornado. Many of the dwellings are missing roofs.

The tornado also ripped tall trees from the ground, leaving others next to them untouched.

A huge oak tree, more than 100 years old, crashed to the ground in front of a Len Stoler auto dealership on Reisterstown Road, about a mile from the scene of the worst devastation.

Elizabeth Evans was working in the meat department of the Super Fresh market when her husband called to tell her about the storm.

"After I talked to him, I walked to the front of the store," she recalled. "I heard this loud noise, and the windows seemed like they were just buckling. Then the lights went out."

The loud noise that Elizabeth Evans heard was the roof of the Super Fresh being ripped off by the tornado. Slabs of concrete lay on the ground around the store, and twisted metal hung from what was left of the roof.

Still, she said, she didn't think the storm was so bad until she returned to her apartment in Chartley Park.

Her husband, Solomon, who had been home watching television, said he looked out on his balcony and saw flower pots being blown over. As he retrieved the pots, he saw the winds overturn his 1985 Buick LeSabre.

"We've got some structural damage," he said. "The ceiling's gone. I guess the car's destroyed, too."

The Evanses' daughter, Peggy Sampson, also lives in Chartley Park. She was on her way home from work when the tornado struck.

"I thought it was just a heavy rainstorm," Sampson said. "But when I got here, and I couldn't get through, I knew something was wrong. I parked about two blocks away and just started running."

Sampson wanted to make sure her two children were safe. Her daughter was in day care, but Sampson said she wasn't sure if her husband had picked up their son from Glyndon Elementary School. She was reunited with them at the fire station.

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