Storm tosses office trailer on tow truck Tornado suspected

funnel cloud spotted on North Point Blvd.

'Clash of air masses'

Man in mobile unit not injured seriously

flights canceled at BWI

November 09, 1996|By JOHN RIVERA AND MICHAEL JAMES | JOHN RIVERA AND MICHAEL JAMES,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Kris Antonelli and TaNoah Morgan contributed to this article.

A possible tornado touched down in eastern Baltimore County yesterday afternoon during a driving thunderstorm, picking up a 50-foot trailer with a man inside and hurling it end-over-end onto a tow truck.

The 25-year-old man who was in the 50-by-12-foot office trailer -- parked behind a used car lot in the 4000 block of North Point Blvd. in Dundalk -- was shaken but not seriously injured, witnesses said. His arm was apparently cut, and he was taken by a relative to a local hospital. His name was not available last night.

Possible tornadoes were also reported in Montgomery and Charles counties.

In Dundalk, car lot owner Chick Ahmer and others spotted a funnel cloud at about 3: 45 p.m. at North Point Boulevard and St. Monica Drive.

Michele Szewczyk, a cashier at the Royal Farm store across the street from the trailer, said the sky suddenly darkened and the winds picked up.

"It happened real quick, and we saw the hail hitting the front doors. We all just went to the back [of the store], toward the back wall," Szewczyk said. "There was a lady, she was driving in front of the store, and all her [car] windows blew out. She came running in here, crying.

"And within three minutes, it got a lot brighter out," Szewczyk said.

Doug Elliott of Essex had pulled into a Wendy's restaurant on the same block to eat.

"At first the sky was getting really black, and then you started seeing these big swirls of winds," he said. "Everyone started running to the back of the restaurant, and we were all huddled down behind the salad bar, trying to get out of the way. It was wild."

The office trailer was parked behind Ahmer's Used Cars. Ahmer rented the lot at the beginning of this month to Norman McCarthy, who opened a towing business. The young man in the trailer was one of McCarthy's employees.

"That trailer went through the air and landed on top of his new tow truck. That trailer was only 4 days old," Ahmer said.

The man who was inside kicked out a window to escape. "He was petrified," Ahmer said. "He was hysterical when he came up here, running."

North Point Boulevard and St. Monica Drive were littered with debris scattered by the winds, including a traffic signal that was broken in half.

Ahmer said only a few cars on his lot were damaged. His biggest concern was "my pretty weeping willow tree that my wife and I trim every year," he said.

"Look at that. It got blown over," he said.

Barry Goldsmith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Sterling, Va., said he will travel to Dundalk today to to determine whether there was a tornado.

Goldsmith said the violent weather was caused by a "clash of air masses."

He said warm, moist air ran into a cold front that is moving to the Eastern seaboard. A north-south line of thunderstorms on the leading edge of that cold front moved through Maryland yesterday, bringing with it wind and hail and driving rain.

The torrents of rain and overflowing gutters and streams led to flooded roads being closed and gave schoolchildren a drenching and commuters a slow drive home.

As of 5: 30 p.m., 2.05 inches of rain was recorded at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday.

The same storm system wreaked havoc yesterday in the South, where a 7-year-old girl was killed in a south-central Georgia town when a tornado lifted her family's mobile home.

As the cold front moves into Maryland, temperatures will drop, producing highs in the low- to mid-50s today and in the mid- to upper-40s with the possibility of snow flurries tomorrow.

A possible tornado -- which snapped a half-dozen Bradford pear trees -- was reported yesterday in Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, the weather service reported.

In Charles County, school officials said school buses were 30 minutes late because of a tornado watch in the area, where a possible tornado was also reported.

School officials said they kept students in school buildings until the the storm passed.

In Anne Arundel County, hail ranging from the size of a dime to a golf ball was spotted in Linthicum Heights, and hail about three-quarters of an inch was reported throughout the Baltimore region.

BWI canceled all flights between 3 p.m. and 3: 30 p.m., a spokeswoman said. A few flights arrived during a half-hour window before the airport again canceled flights at 4 p.m. That cancellation period lasted more than an hour.

In Baltimore, flooding was reported in the 1900 block of Fulton Ave. and on Mount Royal Avenue near McMechen Street.

Baltimore County fire officials said rescue crews responded to dozens of calls in Dundalk and Essex for wind damage. No serious injuries or deaths occurred, Battalion Chief Mark Hubbard, a fire department spokesman, said. Hundreds of calls came in for flooding and downed wires and trees, Hubbard said.

In addition to flipping the trailer, winds associated with the suspected tornado in Dundalk blew the roof off Water's Edge Liquor store in the 7900 block of Dundalk Ave., touching off a gas leak, and lifted boats out of Bear Creek onto land, he said.

In northern Baltimore County, Western Run in Oregon Ridge Park was overflowing its banks onto Beaver Dam Road, stranding some motorists and closing the road, Hubbard said.

Several motorists in Hereford were trapped when high water on Upper Glencoe Road near Gunpowder Falls flooded the engines of their cars. Those who could not get out in the swift-moving water were rescued by firefighters, who used rafts to help them escape through car windows.

Pub Date: 11/09/96

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