Frances' remnants cause flooding in Md.

Possible tornado leaves trail of debris in Charles County

September 09, 2004|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

THE STORM — The soggy and still-potent remnants of Hurricane Frances passed through Maryland yesterday, touching off what witnesses said looked like a tornado in Charles County and flooding streambeds in Allegany and Washington counties.

The storm - classified as a tropical depression by the time it moved into the southern edge of the state late Tuesday - prompted forecasters to declare a tornado watch for much of Maryland after it had spawned several twisters in harder-hit North Carolina, said John Darnley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sterling, Va.

A watch indicates that conditions that are favorable for severe weather, and a warning indicates that it is likely or imminent. By late last night, Frances had apparently produced at least four other funnel clouds, three in Virginia and the other in Maryland's Charles County.

Twister not confirmed

The weather service has not confirmed a tornado in Maryland, Darnley said, but the strong winds left a half-mile path of debris.

Volunteer firefighters who watched the storm's gyrations from the doorway of their station near the community of Welcome said they were awed.

Fire Chief Wallace Danielson of the Tenth Division Volunteer Fire Department said the funnel cloud was about five stories high and kicked up leaves and tree branches, spinning them through the air and tossing them around.

It sent trees crashing into six houses and destroyed a silo, knocked over two small sheds and tipped a camper trailer into the side of a garage at a farm.

No injuries were reported.

"The folks at the farm weren't really all that upset," said Danielson. "They were just glad no one was hurt."

Danielson and about 50 volunteers spent much of the afternoon helping homeowners cover holes in their roofs with tarpaulins and plywood. He said most people weren't home when the suspected tornado hit at 1 p.m. but quickly returned when news of the storm spread.

"I've seen some clouds do some funny things, but that was the first tornado I've witnessed," said Danielson, who lives in nearby Marbury.

Darnley said the storm's northwesterly trajectory saved the Baltimore region from heavy rain and possible flooding, although a flood watch had been issued for the area about 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Light rain in city

Scattered showers moistened the Baltimore area, and rain gauges at the Maryland Science Center and Baltimore-Washington International Airport recorded less than a half-inch of rain by last night, he said.

As moisture-laden clouds moved over the Appalachians, they produced more rain to the west, Darnley said. Officials in Allegany and Washington counties reported 4 to 5 inches, and roads were closed as streams and rivers flooded their banks.

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