A wind's roar and a scene of destruction

July 25, 1995|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

A story in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly estimated the size of trees felled in a storm. They appeared to be up to 36 inches in diameter.

The Sun regrets the error.

A strong burst of wind snapped dozens of mature trees in half and sent a spruce crashing into the living room of a 120-year-old farmhouse in northern Baltimore County yesterday afternoon.

The wind burst caused a path of destruction a quarter-mile long and severely damaged two homes in the 16500 block of York Road just south of Hereford, as a series of thunderstorms brought high winds and short, but intense periods of rain to central Maryland.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The National Weather Service said last night that there were no reports of a tornado in the area, but residents said that's what it might have been. The damage from the storm, which started shortly after 3 p.m., was limited to about a quarter-mile straddling both sides of the 16500 block of York Road.

At the Hereford Volunteer Fire Station, about a half-mile away, Chief Phil Kearney and crew members had no clue that such destruction was happening just down the road. "We were here and the wind wasn't that bad," the chief said.

Pat Patterson was sitting in the kitchen of her three-story Victorian farmhouse with her husband, Sam, when the storm hit.

"We were getting very sharp lightning and thunder," she said. "It started to rain and all of a sudden we heard this big roar. . . . Everything started going sideways. We couldn't even see out the window, there was so much dust and stuff blowing."

Mrs. Patterson said she would never forget the sound it made. "The noise that it made resembled a chimney fire," she said. "If you've ever heard a chimney fire, it roars like a freight train."

The winds destroyed 15 trees on the Pattersons' property -- maples, cherry, walnut and spruce, many of them more than 100 years old. Trees with 12-foot diameters had been snapped in half. A 70-foot-tall maple had been uprooted.

A spruce tree smashed into the living room of the farmhouse, which Mrs. Patterson said was built in 1874. The wraparound porch had been separated from the main house by the force of the fallen tree.

Next door, Gloria Finglass was coming home from work and had just pulled up into her driveway when the storm hit. She saw a dark cloud and then the winds started. Trees started falling, including one that fell on her car and smashed the windshield. "So I jumped under the --board," she said.

Her husband, Sidney, was busy yesterday afternoon making cursory repairs to the white picket fences that keep the horses in their pasture. "The fences went down like toothpicks," he said. He thinks he lost more than 50 trees on his property.

"I want to show you," he said, pulling a toothpick from a kitchen cupboard and snapping it. "Trees with 16-inch diameters, ripped apart just like that. Unbelievable," Mr. Finglass said.

Across York Road, Kathy Breymaier was in the yard weeding when she started to get a weird feeling about the approaching storm. She always kept in the back of her mind that if the weather got really bad, she could always flee to her cellar. She'd never even thought seriously about doing it, until yesterday.

"It was just something I knew. I needed to get into the basement fast," Ms. Breymaier said. "When you hear trees hitting your house, it's a really scary feeling." She said she could feel a change in air pressure as the storm approached. "I felt like the house was going to collapse in," Ms. Breymaier said.

A tree smashed into the roof of her house, damaging the attic and a bedroom. Rain poured in from the storm onto the wooden floor, until fire crews could erect a tarp.

A total of 24,700 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers lost power at the height of the storm, the bulk of them in northern Anne Arundel County, a utility spokesman said.

The spokesman said that as of 11 p.m., 5,800 were still without power. Most service was expected to be restored by last night and the rest by early today.

A lightning strike on Television Hill in North Baltimore briefly knocked three local television stations off the air. WMAR and WBAL were off the air for several seconds shortly before its their 5 p.m. newscasts and WJZ's newscast was interrupted twice.

Now the cleanup begins. The Finglass' said they face a big mess, with all the downed trees.

"We'll have to advertise for firewood," said Mrs. Finglass.

"For free," her husband chimed in. "Cut it up and take it."

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