Residents return to view storm's aftermath Of the 66 homes damaged, six have been condemned in wake of Friday tornado

July 21, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A day after a tornado ripped through a Carroll County neighborhood -- damaging 66 homes and forcing officials to condemn six of them -- residents were allowed to return to the scene yesterday to begin cleaning up.

Streets in the Four Seasons and Mystic Kane Manor developments off Route 32 filled with Red Cross volunteers, insurance inspectors and friends and neighbors eager to pitch in.

The tornado, which hit Carroll County at 3: 45 p.m. Friday, tore roofs, garages, decks and walls from homes. Fire officials said they couldn't provide a specific estimate of the damage, but said it was in the "millions of dollars."

"It's probably the most taxing event we've had in our history," said Clay Myers, a spokesman with the Gamber and Community Volunteer Fire Co. "It was certainly very destructive."

Hundreds of personal belongings could be found among the broken bricks and aluminum siding that littered the tornado site: a wig, dentures, a bottle of bubble bath.

Janice Brown, who lived in one of the six condemned homes, was trying to find her wedding rings amid the debris.

"It just doesn't seem like it's real," said Brown. "My car, my house, everything is gone. But then I look around and see others whose houses are worse than mine."

Several homeowners were more concerned with two young brothers who were blown from their cribs when the tornado hit.

The boys -- 4-month old Ethan March and 2-year-old Christian March -- who were sleeping in an upstairs room at their Marvel Drive home, landed in a yard and were taken to Johns Hopkins Childrens Center in Baltimore. They were released yesterday morning with no serious injuries after being kept overnight for observation, and were staying with relatives.

"Every time we closed our eyes and tried to sleep, we saw those kids," said Suzanne MacLean, whose house had minor damage from the tornado.

Of the 66 homes damaged by the tornado, six have been declared uninhabitable by Carroll building inspectors and will be torn down, said George Thomas, assistant director of Carroll County's Emergency Operations Center.

These homes had major structural damage and were missing walls, roofs and second floors, he said.

Owners of the condemned homes were permitted to enter their residences yesterday to gather belongings. The houses then were boarded up with wood and plastic.

By yesterday evening, the 60 homes that were not condemned were ruled safe to return to, Thomas said. Most homeowners were planning to return to their houses last night, he added.

"We worked hard with [Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.], the county permits and inspections office and the insurance companies to try to get electricity restored and get people back in their residences," Thomas said.

Fire officials said that most of the damaged homes are no older than 4 years and that each condemned home was roughly estimated to be worth $250,000.

None of the 66 families affected by the tornadoes used the makeshift shelter established by Red Cross volunteers Friday evening at the Gamber Fire Hall.

Most stayed with relatives or at hotels, and some were permitted to return to their homes Friday night, said Ed Robertson, a Red fTC Cross disaster relief coordinator.

Yesterday, Red Cross caseworkers and mental health counselors visited the neighborhood to offer help and assist the hundreds of others wanting to aid the tornado victims.

Red Cross volunteers also manned a 24-hour food dispensary in the neighborhood, and Gamber Volunteer Fire Department members and emergency medical technicians have remained there since Friday.

The Maryland State Police secured the tornado site Friday night, allowing only homeowners to enter the area to get necessary belongings, such as money and medicine.

Yesterday, insurance agents and building contractors were given access to the site, which will remain guarded until this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Myers said that more than 25 local businesses donated lumber, food, transportation and other services to the tornado victims.

"Lowes [building supply] donated truckloads of wood, plastic, nails -- anything that could be used in an emergency," Myers said. "The community support has been outstanding," he said.

People wishing to make donations to the tornado victims may send checks to the American Red Cross, Central Maryland Chapter, 4700 Mount Hope Drive, Baltimore 21215. No food or clothing donations will be accepted.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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