Scary reports, high wind fall short of a tornado

April 17, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

Despite multiple reports of waterspouts and hanging funnel clouds, yesterday morning's high winds failed to gather enough energy for any confirmed tornadoes in Central Maryland, a National Weather Service spokesman said.

Area police received false alarms from security systems, and real reports of fender benders and occasional downed trees and wires as the fast-paced storm moved through Central Maryland about 8 a.m.

Montgomery County police said they had been warned that a funnel cloud was moving northeasterly from Reston, Va., but it didn't materialize.

Calls from worried citizens were reported in Perryville, Cecil County, and the White Marsh section of eastern Baltimore County.

About 20,000 residents throughout the Baltimore area lost power when falling tree limbs cut power lines, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman said. Most service had been restored by last night.

What seemed to have been the storm's most serious damage occurred in Glenwood, in western Howard County.

There, farmer Roger Barger said the wind and rain moved through about 7:30 a.m. -- blowing off half his barn roof and dropping it in three pieces 150 feet away.

"We heard this wind, an awful lot of wind," said Mr. Barger, 70, who has 25 acres in the 2900 block of Hobbs Road. "A piece of the roof hit the gas tank. It could have been bad."

Wondering whether he'd experienced a tornado, he said, "It was such a roar, I was afraid the windows were going to come out -- a high-pitched sound, a real weird, whistling sound."

But Fred Davis, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said that "strong high winds can make that whistling sound, too."

Mr. Davis said several reports were received of "protuberances from clouds aloft, but they didn't touch down, so they weren't tornadoes."

Waterspouts also were reported near Cape St. Claire, moving toward Rock Hall.

A tornado watch that was supposed to be in effect until 1 p.m. had been canceled by 10 a.m. for all but Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties, where the watch was called off later and only rain fell.

Winds of 56 mph were reported at Mount Airy, and officials at the Key Bridge imposed a wind restriction -- reducing the speed limit and barring large empty vehicles -- for about two hours. But by mid-morning, the day had turned lovely, with the sun appearing, skies clearing and gusty winds lingering.

"So it looks like we just had strong, high winds, with some funnels trying to form but without enough energy to touch down," Mr. Davis said.

On Friday, twisters touched down in Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri and Indiana. A church in Texas was leveled; the glass skylights of a shopping mall in Kentucky were blown in and mobile home parks in several states sustained heavy damage in the storms, which were blamed for several deaths and injuries.

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