"We came out in the hallway, and pieces just started falling, and then the whole thing just came down," Mr. Brooks said. Bricks and roofing tar battered his third-floor bedroom. His bed, dresser, clothes, stereo, television set and videocassette recorder were knocked around the room and buried under debris.
Mr. Brooks and other residents left the house and sought help from the Red Cross when a city building inspector declared the structure unsafe.
Markee Dickerson, 14, who had come home from school early, narrowly escaped injury at one of the North Avenue houses.
"The roof flew off. The window busted. At first it was like a flood, and then it just blew," he said.
His aunt, Marlene Allen, who owns the house, burst into tears when asked whether her losses would be covered.
As relatives tried to comfort her, she held her head in her hands and said, "I just told the man last month I wanted to get my house insurance."
If you want to help: Donations can be sent to the American Red Cross, 4700 Mount Hope Drive, Baltimore 21215.
If you have insurance questions: The National Insurance Consumers Helpline, operated by the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at (800) 942-4242.
For help in Baltimore: The Red Cross planned to set up a service center at the mayor's station at 1634 Guilford Ave.