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The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland • Page 11
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The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland • Page 11

The Baltimore Suni
Baltimore, Maryland
Issue Date:
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The Sun Wednesday, September 26, 200 1 Page 11a er. Data now m-'WJi -i 1 ire tor Mi "At mIMm iiT ir Mr Mr. TaJfaiSri 1 AJiTniiM View of wreckage: The remains Hall on the university of Maryland "That was common with this storm," Strong said. "The warnings were issued with about 10 minutes of lead time." Watson said the storm left an unbroken trail of destruction in Maryland 10 miles long. For most of that distance, the funnel was just 150 yards wide on the ground of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (upper right) and the tornado 'spath campus in College Parle.

about average. "My gosh, if it had been wider, it would have been much worse," she said. Some large tornadoes have been as much as a mile in diameter. The chain of wreckage began a mile or two southwest of College Park and led to a demolished townhouse development in the Laurel sustains millions in damages Winds reached 180 mph in storm's 10-mile trail, weather service says 'Not all that common here' Cyclone might prove to be most expensive that ever hit state By Frank D. Roylance SDN STAFF Tornadoes occur somewhere In Maryland nearly every year.

But few have had the power to pick up automobiles and cause the deaths, injuries and destruction seen from College Park to Laurel on Monday. "I was impressed by the continued strength of the tornado over a long track. That's not all that common around here," said Barbara Watson, warning coordinator for the National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va. Watson flew over the storm's 10-mile track in Maryland yesterday with the Maryland State Police. 1 "I was just trying to think, how are we going to count all these buildings businesses, homes, churches, schools and thousands and thousands of trees?" she said.

"I was just impressed with the scope of it all." Watson rated the storm a "solid" F3 on the seven-tier Fujita scale, with top winds of 170 to 180 mph. It was neither the deadliest tornado to strike Maryland nor the most powerful. But it might have been the costliest. Maryland's worst tornado struck a schoolhouse in La Plata, in Charles County, on Nov. 9, 1926.

It killed 14 children, then moved into Prince George's County and killed three more people. That storm is estimated to have been an F4 storm, packing winds between 206 and 260 mph and capable of leveling houses and hurling cars through the air. The only other F4 storm ever recorded in Maryland was a tornado that struck near Frostburg, in Allegany County, on June 2, 1998. More than 100 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Damages were estimated at $5 million.

There were no deaths and only five injuries. Until Monday, the costliest tornado in Maryland history was the Reisterstown storm Oct. 18, 1990. The F2 tornado struck an apartment complex, tearing off the roof and injuring 59. Damages were estimated then at $9.5 million.

"My guess is that Monday's storm would be more," Watson said yesterday. "All that public, private and federal property; it's gonna be impressive." In all, from 1756 through June of this year, tornadoes in what is now the Sterling forecast area from Allegany County east to the Chesapeake Bay have killed at least 55 people and injured 268 more. Property damages have been estimated without adjusting for inflation at more than $48 million. Harold E. Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Center in Norman, 2rj verb's i iv I "I was just trying to think, how are we going to count all these buildings businesses, homes, churches, schools and thousands and thousands of trees?" Barbara Watson, surveying damage for the weather service said the central part of Maryland from the mountains to the upper Eastern Shore seems to lie in an area of heightened vulnerability to strong tornadoes compared with places to the north and south.

"Exactly why is a good question," Brooks said. Tornadoes form when cool, dry air moving from one direction collides with warm, moist air moving from another, triggering violent updrafts and a whirling vortex of wind. The high terrain of West Virginia, he said, might provide added cooling and drying to air moving into the region from the northwest, increasing the contrasts with warm air blowing in from the Atlantic and boosting the tornado risk. Monday's storm was first spotted at 4 p.m. by weather service employees manning the Doppler radar at the forecast office in Sterling.

Winds near Stafford, had begun a characteristic slow, counter-clockwise rotation, said meteorologist Christopher A. Strong. "We had a very strong front coming through with a big low-pressure area developing in the Great Lakes area," he said. That cold front was moving over a mass of warm, moist air blowing in from the southeast, creating ideal conditions for a tornado to form. At 4:09 p.m., Sterling issued its first tornado warning, alerting residents of northern Stafford and eastern Prince William counties that a tornado had formed in the area.

Tornado watches had been in effect since 1:31 p.m. across most of Maryland and eastern Virginia. After the storm formed, it seemed to follow U.S. 1 northward over Virginia toward Washington, strengthening and weakening, but causing relatively little damage. At 4:53 p.m., the weather service issued a warning for eastern Fairfax County, Alexandria, and metropolitan Washington.

"It weakened as it was going into Fairfax, and we were thinking it might fall apart," Strong said. At 5:03 p.m., "the funnel cloud was sighted from the Pentagon and also by an observer at National Airport." But as it moved toward the northeastern corner of the District, it became more menacing. "It really started to strengthen quite a bit and turned into a pretty impressive storm," Strong said. At 5:10 p.m., the weather service issued a tornado warning for Prince George's County about 10 minutes before it struck the University of Maryland campus. 4 p.m.

Rotating winds spotted on radar in Stafford, Va. 4:09 p.m. National Weather Service issues tornado warning for northern Stafford County and eastern Prince William County. 4:53 p.m. Weather service issues warning for eastern Fairfax County, D.C.

metro area and Alexandria. 5:03 p.m. Storm passes over the Pentagon. 5:10 pjn. Weather service issues warning for Prince George's County and eastern Montgomery County.

5:20 p.m. Storm strengthens, strikes College Park, moves on to Beltsville and Laurel. 5:31 p.m. Weather service issues tornado warning for Howard County. 5:45 p.m.

Tornado warning In Prince George's County expires. 6:00 p.m. Howard tornado warning expires. DENISI HURRAY SDN STAFF -a, Howard County section of Laurel. Watson and weather service meteorologist Jim Travers toured the damage in Maryland yesterday and used what they saw in College Park to assign the storm its F3 rating.

"The thing that Barbara saw that moved it into the F3 category Heiderman, wearing borrowed clothes and shoes, said she had barely made it into the basement before the tornado hit. She and her family ran out of the house minutes later, afraid it would collapse. As on the Prince George's side of Laurel, no one was seriously injured in Howard County, said Fire Chief Joseph Herr. "It's a miracle that's all there is to it," he said. Howard County Executive James N.

Robey, Public Works Director James M. Irvin and County JERRY JACKSON: SUN STAFF are visible from the roofofEaston was a parking lot where there were several hundred cars. These things were picked up and thrown around like toys, and piled on top of trej-s; beyond the parking lot," Travers" said. The damage north of College Park was more characteristic of an F2 storm, he said. Ruins of home: Heidi i Heiderman (left) of Riverbrink i Court in North 1 Laurel and her boyfriend, Oreg Pilkerton, i siunuonan' upstairs floor of a neighbor's townhousetd get abetter view of the damage to Heiderman'? has been ml condemned after its roof i and rear walls were ripped off- by the tornado that struck i -Monday evening.

Councilman Guy J. Guzzoner a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, toured the damaged areas yesterday morning. In addition to hauling away fle-bris, the county had to fend off aggressive vinyl-siding salespeople' yesterday, Robey said. "Folks who were coming out of the woodwork to sell them Robey said, adding that consumer-protection workers arrived to warn residents about the salespeople Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article C-T- I 1 AMY DAVIS: SUN STAFF PHOTOS Mostly unharmed: Robin Wilkinson, 33, a software trainer, cleans up debris from fallen trees outside her home in the Settler's Landing area of North Laurel. About half of the 47 townhouses there were condemned.

Historic building, half of townhouses in one area condemned By Juue Bykowicz SUN STAFF A beloved piece of Laurel history, the Harrison-Beard Building, will be pulled down this morning, a casualty of Monday night's tornado. The tornado carved a swift but devastating path through Laurel, devouring old neighborhoods and a high school in Prince George's County before smashing a community of townhouses in Howard County. The decision to demolish Harrison-Beard, built in 1890, was made yesterday afternoon after engineers surveyed the roofless, cracked red brick building at 901 Ninth St. "It really takes a lot to tear down a historic building," said Laurel City Police Department spokesman Jim Collins. "There was no choice." The structure once functioned as City Hall and has served as a police and a fire station.

Most recently, it housed the Laurel Regional Hospital Auxiliary and a thrift shop. "Everyone has a memory of that building," Collins said. "I grew up here, and I'm used to seeing it every day. It's going to be a real shock not to see it anymore." Collins estimated that the city had sustained millions of dollars in damage and said it would take weeks to clean up the wreckage. Late Monday night, Gov.

Parris N. Glendening declared a state of emergency in Prince George's and Howard counties. "Citizens are just overwhelmed at what they are seeing," Collins said. "It was hard to tell how bad it was at night. Now that we're in the daylight, it's just sad." Working to a background symphony of wood chippers and chainsaws, residents and county employees began cleaning up just after the sun rose yesterday.

A few blocks southwest of the historic district. Vice Principal Robert E. Tafares stood outside Laurel High School directing traffic. The annex that housed the social studies department lost its roof, and cinder blocks were tossed all over the six rooms of the structure. "It looks like a bomb hit," said Tafares, a retired Air Force colonel.

But the social studies teachers were already making plans for conducting classes without their classrooms. "They're fired up to overcome this," Tafares said. "But I think that's the sentiment of the whole country right now we can overcome anything." Leaves and wood pulp carpeted Tenth Street and Turney Avenue near their intersection in the hard- Chronology of Monday 's deadly tornado hit residential neighborhood of Falrlawn. Up and down the streets, residents were picking up tree branches in their yards and, in some cases, out of their homes. Ron Garrett, 33, stood watch yesterday on a mound of debris in the 1000 block of Tenth St.

where his single-family home once stood. The house had been reduced to a tumble of couches, broken pieces of wooden frame and a few barely standing walls. "Nobody really knows what to do right now," Garrett said yesterday morning. "I'm just kind of standing around waiting for the insurance people. It's unbelievable." After touching down in Prince George's, the tornado hopped over the county line into Howard and chewed into Settler's Landing, a group of townhouses in North Laurel.

About half of the 47 town-houses in the area were condemned, and about 30 families stayed at the Savage Volunteer Fire Department station Monday night, said M. Sean Kelly, spokesman for Howard County Fire and Rescue Services. Kelly said he could not yet put a price tag on the damage in Howard County. The tornado had sheared off the roof and crunched in the sides of the townhouse at 9419 Riv-erbrink Court, where 19-year-old Heidi Heiderman lived with her mother and her mother's husband. Heiderman stood on nearby Pilgrim Avenue yesterday afternoon looking up at what remained of the house.

"Look at it there's nothing left," she said. "It's like a dollhouse. Howard Coi Miniifnmprv LaurelP h.ij Laure. ocitaviuc vi; Viifflnia cijrajr v( College vPark AlPTnnHrlft us I Fairfax Co. am" SOURCE: National Weather Service mia OTS D.C.- Qv'n' Wart Potomac.

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