Tornado hits Frederick County, damaging homes, utility lines

No injuries reported in dinnertime storm

September 18, 2004|By Jacques Kelly and Gus Sentementes | Jacques Kelly and Gus Sentementes,SUN STAFF

A dinnertime tornado, which apparently gained strength over the Potomac River, touched down outside Brunswick in southern Frederick County yesterday, tearing roofs apart, toppling trees, obliterating barns and chicken houses, buckling the walls of a home and downing utility wires.

No injuries were reported

The angry aftermath of Hurricane Ivan entered Maryland from Loudon County, Va., and passed through the outskirts of Brunswick, an old railroading town southwest of Frederick.

"I was working at Superfresh when I saw the funnel. It was unreal," said Heather Wheeler, 24, a Brunswick bookkeeper. "I saw the sky getting sucked into it. Pieces of fence and cornstalks were flying around."

The National Weather Service said a tornado was reported on the ground at 5:52 p.m. five miles south of Brunswick.

"We were out front of the firehouse and looked out - over the Potomac. Then we saw a dark tornado cloud right over top of the building," said David Nalborczyk, safety office for the Brunswick Volunteer Fire Company, whose members responded to numerous calls last night. "It got very dark, and the cloud moved to the west of us. Then we started getting the calls about the trees down."

He said that damage was concentrated in the Knoxville-Rosemont area, and that roofs were blown off six houses.

The brick home in Knoxville of Billie Kidwiler, 77, was heavily damaged. Her daughter, Linda Henson, 55, was standing on the porch when she saw the tornado heading her way.

Henson went inside and screamed to family members to take cover in the basement.

"Suddenly it was right there," Henson said. "I told them to hurry up and get in the basement. ... It's right here."

Mother and daughter ran downstairs, with no flashlight, when they realized that Henson's husband, Don, was outside. "I said, `He's still outside. Get him.'" Kidwiler said.

The tornado rumbled by, damaging the sides of their house, breaking windows and smashing shutters and a deck. A row of 50-foot back-yard trees was toppled. The family said the tornado lasted two minutes.

Cars in the Kidwiler driveway were picked up and slammed together in what appeared to be a demolition derby. A bumper of a Nissan Pathfinder had been pierced and skewered by a piece of tree wood.

The family huddled in the garage by a lantern later in the evening.

State Police closed sections of Route 17, Burkittsville Road, between Routes 340 and 79. Later in the evening, police also shut Route 77, between Smithburg and Thurmont, because of fallen tree limbs.

"I saw it come up through the woods from the west end of Brunswick," said Wade Watson, 30, a Brunswick volunteer fireman who lives in the Rosemont community just north of Brunswick. "It's not what I imagined a tornado would look like. It was wide at the base, full of pieces of roof and some tree limbs in it."

Watson said he remained outside his home as the tornado passed.

Witnesses saw "three or four funnel clouds" cross the Potomac River, then merge into one larger twister that cut a narrow path of destruction, said Gene Fauble, 28, a Brunswick volunteer firefighter. They said the tornado was visible about five minutes.

"It's like once they hit the water, they gained strength," Fauble said. "I saw debris up in the air - tree branches and metal, but no vehicles."

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