Tornadoes hit Maryland

Storm brings rain, wind

twisters reported in south of state

April 21, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon and Brent Jones | Tyeesha Dixon and Brent Jones,Sun reporters

Two tornadoes ripped through the Maryland suburbs of Washington yesterday, part of a weather system that sparked fires, spawned hail and flooded roads around the state.

Afternoon reports of severe weather in Charles and Prince George's counties were confirmed as tornadoes late last night by the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. No injuries were reported.

Closer to Baltimore, the weather service issued a tornado warning for northern Baltimore County shortly after 6 p.m. for about 40 minutes, advising people to take cover. Baltimore County police and fire departments had no reports of twisters touching down.

The first tornado hit at 2:09 p.m. in the Charles County town of St. Charles, northeast of La Plata, the weather service said. Six years ago this month, a tornado tore through La Plata and killed three people.

Weather officials estimated that yesterday's tornado, which touched down near Renner and Leonardtown roads, reached 80 mph, and the twister's path covered nearly two miles. Trees were snapped and uprooted.

The second tornado touched down at 2:37 p.m. at a water park in Chillum, west of Hyattsville in Prince George's County, the weather service said. The twister, which reached an estimated 100 mph and traveled a third of a mile, crossed a wooded area and field behind George E. Peters Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School, the weather service said.

A large part of the school's roof was ripped off and landed in the school parking lot, county fire and rescue spokesman Mark Brady said. Another portion of the roof was lifted off and then fell back into place, he said. Trailers on school property also tipped over, he said.

In addition to a large amount of debris being strewn across the parking lot, trees were broken in half, Brady said.

A firefighter at a nearby station and a science teacher at the school both reported seeing wind rotation as debris was carried off, the weather service said.

The Prince George's County Fire Department said firefighter John Crisman Sr. was working at the Chillum station when he felt the air being sucked out of the building, according to a news release. Outside, he said, he saw the flag quickly change directions and a storm cloud with debris and rotating winds.

The damaged school is about 300 feet from Metropolitan Seventh-day Adventist Church, where a wedding was in progress when the storm moved through, Brady said. The church sustained minor damage.

"We're extremely fortunate that no injuries occurred," Brady said.

The damage to the school included a natural gas leak, which firefighters were able to quickly stop, Brady said. All utilities to the school were shut off, and Brady said classes would not be held for at least two or three days.

In Carroll County, state police reported that several trees outside Sykesville were knocked down and appeared to be twisted, indicating high winds. No one was hurt.

Severe thunderstorms, intense rain, hail and winds played havoc elsewhere around the state.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m. in Anne Arundel County, a fire was reported at a two-story single-family home in the 7700 block of Ricker Road in Severn, said county Fire Department Division Chief Michael Cox. He said that although the cause of the fire is under investigation, a neighbor reported seeing lightning strike and then smoke coming from the direction of the home shortly afterward.

No one was home at the time of the fire, Cox said.

Lightning also ignited the steeple of Glyndon United Methodist Church in Butler about 5:20 p.m. The blaze was confined to the steeple.

In Montgomery County, one home was struck by lighting, said Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer. The house, in the 11600 block of Luvie Court in Potomac, was damaged, but no fire broke out, he said.

Also in Montgomery, about noon, the basement wall of a home in the 12000 block of Cheyenne Road near Gaithersburg collapsed because of the weather, Piringer said. The home was declared uninhabitable.

Many roads were flooded because of heavy rain, Piringer said.

Meadows, the meteorologist, said some areas in the state could see up to 4 inches of rain.

Heavy rain led to two 37-minute delays in the Orioles game against the New York Yankees yesterday. The 1:35 p.m. game finally ended about 6 p.m. with the Yankees winning, 7-1.

By last night, after the tornado warning had ended, pockets of Baltimore and Carroll counties remained under a flood warning, which was expected to last until 1:45 a.m. today.

The weather service reported flooding along Gunpowder Road and Beckleysville Road in northern Baltimore County. Small streams in and around Carney, Cockeysville, Hampstead, Hampton, Manchester and Parkville could also experience flooding, weather officials said.

But the most tense moments of the tornado warning passed without incident.

Lisa Lemire, manager at Wally's Country Store in Parkton, said calls from worried relatives and their boss had warned employees of the tornado risk. Lemire kept a watchful eye on the storm, she said later. And although the sky grew dark and it began to pour, customers kept coming in, buying gas and ordering food.

"I said, `Well, I guess we're OK so far,'" she said lightheartedly.

tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com brent.jones@baltsun.com

The Associated Press and Sun reporter Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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