The powerful cold front that spawned deadly and destructive tornadoes across the South this week passed through Maryland Thursday with more than a dozen tornado warnings. But in the end there were no reports of catastrophic damage.
Survey teams from the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va., forecast office were dispatched Thursday to the Shenandoah Valley and to Loudon County in Virginia, and to Frederick County in Maryland to look for any damage indicating that tornadoes had touched down.
The weather service's State College, Pa., forecast office, however, has confirmed an EF-1 tornado struck before dawn Thursday at the Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry, York County, Pa. An EF-1 twister has top winds of 86 mph to 110 mph. The resort's website has photos showing damage to trees, several buildings and a nearby high-tension power line.
The forecast calls for gradually clearing skies, with sunshine and highs in the upper 60s Friday and the 70s through the weekend.
Most of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay was under a tornado watch on Wednesday, and meteorologists only began to lift the watches, from northwest to southeast, around mid-day on Thursday.
During that period, numerous tornado warnings were issued as radar imagery or observers on the ground spotted signs of rotating winds.
"Now it's a case of trying to verify the ones we've issued," said NWS meteorologist Calvin Meadows. The ground surveys begun Thursday were expected to continue for several days. "I have no idea how many of these they're going to survey. Some are going to be in Maryland, but I have no idea where, at this point."
Observers in Prince Georges, Howard, Frederick and Charles counties reported sighting funnel clouds late Wednesday and again early Thursday, according to the weather service. Several schools in warned areas of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties Thursday morning ordered children to take shelter in hallways until the warnings were lifted.
There were reports large trees downed in Beallsville and Barnesville, both in Montgomery County.
The frontal passage, and the thunderstorms that came with it, dumped from a half-inch to as much as two inches of rain in some locations, Meadows said.
Baltimore-Washington-Thurgood Marshall Airport reported wind gusts as high as 33 mph between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Thursday, but less than a 10th of an inch of rain.
Flooded streams closed roads in Union Bridge, Ballenger Creek and Emmitsburg, in Frederick County. In Washington County, Antietam Creek and Little Antietam Creek both flooded near Leitersburg. Bear Branch Creek overflowed its bank near Westminster in Carroll County. Allegany County observers reported three-quarter-inch hail early Thursday.
Volunteer firefighters from New Windsor and Emmitsburg, in Carroll and Frederick counties, rescued two motorists trapped in their cars by high water Thursday. No one was injured in either incident, according to Seamus Mooney, emergency management director for Frederick County.
"We're certainly a lot better off than the folks down in Alabama, and thank goodness for that. It's been remarkably quiet in terms of damage and human injuries," said Edward J. McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.
The frontal system swept across the South late Wednesday and early Thursday. Tornadoes killed at least 250 people in six states and leveled whole neighborhoods. Thousands who miraculously survived are now homeless, and hundreds of thousands are without electricity.
The deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history was the "Tri-State Tornado" event on March 18, 1925. That single F-5 tornado killed 695 people from southeast Missouri, across southern Illinois to southern Indiana, a record path of 219 miles. It killed 234 people in Murphysboro, Ill., alone.