He grabbed his children and rushed them downstairs. His 89-year-old grandmother was in the kitchen. He said he hurried his family into the living room, told them to fall to their knees and put their heads down. The house creaked and rumbled, and several windows blew out.
"You could feel the house trembling," Mr. Brown recalled. "I said, 'Get on the floor!' "
Then, almost as soon as the storm came, it was over. Mr. Brown stepped outside and looked to the sky. The roof was missing from the house next door, where no one had been home. His family was safe.
"We were very lucky," Mr. Brown said.
James Robbins was driving a school bus to Cecil Elementary to pick up students when part of a roof flew into the front windshield near the intersection of East North Avenue and Aisquith Street, cracking the driver's side and shattering the passenger side.
"I'm OK," Mr. Robbins said, standing in the doorway of his bus, shards of glass still stuck to his face. "I saw the storm coming and pulled to the side of the road. A roof ripped off a building and came right through the windshield. Then the whole bus started to shake. I thought it was going to take off."
The roof of a Citgo gas station at North and Aisquith was partially caved in, and at least five cars parked on the lot were damaged by flying debris. A wooden roof from across the street blew over to the station and squashed the cab of a tow truck.
Francine Mayes was inside the station, which she uses to make telephone calls, when the storm hit. As the wind increased, she said, another woman ran in for shelter. "She kept saying, 'What is it? What is it?' I told her it was a mighty wind."
Similar scenes were played out elsewhere in the city: Roofs blown off six houses in the 1900 block of W. Franklin St., windows blown out of a dozen houses or more on Lauretta Avenue, downed power lines sparking in the street.
"There was this rumbling noise and dark clouds," said Thomas Murphy, 54, of the 1900 block of Franklin, as neighbors swept up debris and shared their stories. "All this trash was spinning around in the air. We just closed all the windows and sat tight."
Inez Caero was standing in a puddle in her second-floor bedroom at 1412 W. Lafayette Ave. an hour after the storm. Overhead, the ceiling sagged and the sky was visible through a foot-wide hole.
"I was at the window and the ceiling started to fall," she said. "I was scared. It took the roof off all the way down the block. It sounded like somebody shot a gun."
"I thought the world was coming to an end," said Gloria Jones, a neighbor five doors away.
Baltimore County fire and police officials reported damage nearly ringing the Beltway.
"The entire county was hit by the storm," said fire Capt. Gordon G. Clifton of the fire communications division. "Wires are down, water is flooding basements and fire alarms are going off everywhere. A lot of little things . . . but nothing major. It's a heck of a mess, though."
Police officers from the White Marsh Precinct received a report that a small tornado touched down in the 9600 block of Belair Road in Germantown, but they added that the sighting was unconfirmed.
BGE spokesman Charles J. Franklin said the power company tracked the storm as it reached the system in western Howard County about 2:10 p.m. and blew east toward the Chesapeake Bay. It was gone by 3:45 p.m., he said.
Near Westminster, wind-blown trees damaged three houses and destroyed a fourth on Tannery Hill Drive and South Tannery Road. One homeowner was slightly injured, the city fire department said.
At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, flights were delayed briefly as the storm passed overhead, said spokeswoman Adrienne Walker-Pittman.
The National Weather Service clocked the peak airport wind gust at 43 mph and measured a little over a quarter-inch of rain.
A few miles east of the airport, the storm shook millions of leaves from trees in Pasadena, and moments later knocked down trees in Riviera Beach -- a number of them onto houses or garages in the community near the mouth of the Patapsco River.
Firefighters and rescue workers searched a 30-block area twice, in some cases breaking into houses, to make sure no one was injured.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross set up shelters at St. Jane Frances Roman Catholic Church and Riviera Beach Elementary School for those left temporarily homeless.
Richard Moore, who lives on Main Avenue, said he saw a funnel cloud.
"It had to be a twister," he said. "When I saw stuff going up inside it, I knew. It was a big twister motion outlined by leaves."
But Fred Davis, chief meteorologist at the weather service's BWI office, inspected the site last night and found that the damage had been caused by "straight-line winds."
Still, the damage was vast. A huge sycamore had crashed into the Main Avenue house of Clara Pajak, while she was at work. Her boss, a county rescue worker, got into the house to save her dog, a black Labrador retriever named Candy.
"I've been through worse than this in my life," said Mrs. Pajak. "This is nothing."