Rose Dennis is still amazed at how the refrigerator and furniture were sucked out of a neighbor's third-floor apartment in Reisterstown, while the woman remained almost untouched.
"Her refrigerator. . . mattress and everything blew out of her apartment," Dennis said yesterday, pointing to scattered items on the grass "She wasn't blown out because she ran into a bathroom."
"I think that's what saved her," she said. "It's just a miracle, a miracle."
The woman who was spared is the 68-year-old mother-in-law of Dennis' son. Her home, in the Chartley Park apartments on Glyndon Drive, was among the dwellings damaged by the tornado that struck the area Thursday.
The woman received three stitches to her head, Dennis said, and is now staying with her daughter and son-in-law.
The woman's roof-ripped apartment remained exposed yesterday, allowing strangers to glance at her belongings.
"It's been a total disaster, she's lost just about everything" and "is still in shock," Dennis said.
Dennis herself lives about three blocks away and her home was not struck by the storm. But she was among many family members and friends who were at the storm scene yesterday to retrieve and search for belongings after the tornado.
State emergency management officials said the twister caused property damage totaling between $9.5 million and $10 million in Reisterstown.
Cars were overturned and damaged, including a crushed Renault Medallion with an attached sign that read: "Gone with the wind." Roofs, bricks and windows were gone, exposing toilets, closets and clothes.
There were piles of bricks, debris and wood all over the lawns.
It looked like a war zone.
"I was asleep in the bedroom when it happened," said Frances Blair, 76, who lived in a second-floor apartment on Glyndon Drive. "I heard it come up and I jumped up and said, 'Oh My God.' "
A window screen blew off, but that was the only damage to Blair's apartment. "She was one of the lucky ones," a friend said.
Blair, who has lived there since December 1981, returned yesterday to pick up her belongings. "I have valuable possessions that have been in my family for years and I don't want anything to happen to them," she said.
She has been staying with her sister until she can find somewhere else to live.
"I don't know what will happen," she said outside the damaged apartment building.
State and county police have provided 24-hour protection against looting in the area since the tornado struck.
"We want to secure everything," said Victor Neuhauser, a maintenance worker, as he boarded up the windows and doors for the apartments' management yesterday.
Families are being allowed to enter the apartment building to pick up items only until 7 p.m. nightly, police said.
In the meantime, passers-by stopped and viewed the damages. Yesterday afternoon, one woman, Celia Peters, 30, of Reisterstown, even videotaped the scene.
"It's interesting," she said, adding that she would send a copy of the tape to her mother in Florida. "I just wanted her to see what happened, because she couldn't believe it."
Mike Ritter, assistant director for emergency services for Central Maryland's American Red Cross, said 16 families remain housed at the Comfort Inn Northwest. Most are living with friends and family, he said.
The Red Cross surveyed 700 residential dwellings, including single family homes and apartments, for damages.
"About 400 were affected in some way," said Russ Kratzer, damage assessment supervisor for the Red Cross. The most common damages were ripped roofs and walls, he said.
Some dwellings can be made habitable, while others will require major repairs or demolition.
"It's sort of hard to live in a house with no roof on it," Kratzer said.
Ritter noted that some homes have "no damage whatsoever, and yet right next to them there's a home where the roof is completely gone."
"It's almost like a doll house," Ritter said. "You can see furniture where it was exactly."
The Red Cross plans to continue to provide free food and shelter for the needy today, tomorrow and Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Franklin Middle School on Main Street.
On Saturday alone, they fed nearly 1,000 people, Ritter said.
In addition to the Red Cross, the Seventh Day Adventist Church has prepared Red Cross-donated food for displaced families and for police and volunteers working on the streets. Tenants and relatives said volunteers and police have helped tremendously.
A message on the third-floor wall of one of the gutted apartments, written in red ink, says, "Thank you all."