Billy Clayton's mom was at his school yesterday, but not for a parent-teacher conference. She was there in search of a motel room.
Audrey Williams said she was reluctant to ask for help from the American Red Cross, because in her mind it's always been associated with welfare, "something other people need."
But, after spending a weekend bouncing from one friend's home to another, she decided to go to Franklin Middle School on Main Street in Reisterstown.
There, Amy Gaver, a Red Cross volunteer, helped Williams fill out the paperwork to get Williams a place to stay for the next two weeks, time she'll use to find a new place to live.
Williams was among the dozens of people displaced by Thursday night's tornado, a quick, black-swirling fist of nature that smashed through a part of Reisterstown, leaving destruction in its wake.
She lived with her mother, Margaret, and her son, Billy Clayton, in a second-story apartment in the 400 block of Valley Meadow Circle in the Bentley Park Apartments.
The storm, which caused total property damage estimated at $9.5 million to $10 million, shucked the roof from Williams' apartment building.
"I've lived through earthquakes in California and this was even more frightening," Williams recalled as she waited at Franklin Middle School yesterday.
"Out there [in California], you know what to do if the building shakes," Williams went on. "You're conditioned. You count to 10, and if it continues, you head for a doorway. But here you had no time to react."
One minute, Williams said, she and her mother were watching the storm clouds approach, the next they were opening the second-story apartment door of the Bentley Park Apartments, finding the roof gone and rain pouring in.
Yesterday afternoon, the cleanup and rebuilding process continued. Workers piled wind-torn debris into green trash bins, while other workers arrived with tar paper and plywood to patch roof holes.
Someone had draped a baby-blue tarp over the shell of a roofless home on Glyndon Drive, and everywhere black plastic could be seen taped over car windows, apparently shattered during the storm.
And as displaced residents, escorted by police, continued to pick through what was left of their apartments, county officials met with Red Cross volunteers to compare notes.
Elaine Calhoun, Red Cross family services officer for the disaster, said volunteers have helped 65 families thus far. Twenty have been given rooms at the Comfort Inn in Pikesville.
County officials had set up a table at Franklin Middle School's auditorium to help people find apartments, said Frank C. Robey Jr., Baltimore County's administrative officer.
More than 300 housing units were affected by the storm, Robey said, but by yesterday only 112 housing units remained condemned.
But late yesterday, it was still unknown how many people remain homeless, because people are getting help in different ways, Robey said.
For instance, Robey said, the apartment complex owner, City Wide Management Co., was able to place 12 families immediately in vacant apartments at Chartley and Bentley Park apartments.
"A lot of people went somewhere else and signed a new lease," Robey added.
Meanwhile, owners of Carriage Hill Village Apartments in Randallstown offered to put up tornado victims for two weeks, rent-free, said Brian Zimmerman, a leasing consultant there.
There are three units remaining, he said. For information, call 922-7400.