Deadly Tornado Hits Southern Maryland
At Least Two People Killed, Property Damaged in Charles, Calvert Counties
By Michael Amon and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 29, 2002; Page A01
A deadly and devastating tornado roared across Southern Maryland last night, killing at least two people, demolishing stores and houses and littering streets with overturned cars, torn power lines and fallen trees.
A man was killed in La Plata, the seat of Charles County, and a woman was killed in Prince Frederick, the seat of Calvert County, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. Scores were reported injured.
"Look around, look around," said Murray D. Levy (D-At Large), president of the Charles County commissioners, as he stood at a main La Plata intersection. "Everything's flattened."
Levy stood in the rubble outside the La Plata United Methodist Church at Routes 6 and 301. The roof of the red-brick church had been torn off, and the wooden steeple lay in its front yard. Minutes earlier, he had helped dig two people out of the debris.
"There is no La Plata," said Will Mayhew, 18, one of hundreds of firefighters at the scene. "It's totally changed now."
The storm ripped into the town of 6,500 from the west about 7:10 p.m. on a day when hail, heavy rain and high winds buffeted the southern half of the Washington region. It was part of a weather system that had pushed east from the Ohio Valley, leaving ruin in its wake.
In a La Plata shopping center, the twister's furious winds leveled the KFC restaurant. They tore the roof from a CVS drugstore, leaving a 15-foot-high mass of twisted metal on the ground. Part of the roof also was torn off a bank and other stores in the shopping center.
Although preliminary reports indicated that much of the damage was concentrated at Routes 301 and 6, witnesses said the twister left a trail of destruction that continued east for blocks on Route 6 in the business district.
The storm sheared off the top of the La Plata water tower, ripped a balcony from a bank, brought down a forest's worth of trees and limbs and left many witnesses in stunned awe at its power.
True to the crazy-quilt damage pattern characteristic of twisters, some buildings near the intersection of Routes 301 and 6 appeared to suffer little, if any, damage, while about two miles away, around Hawkins Gate Road, several houses were destroyed, according to witnesses.
One of the storm's fatalities occurred in that area, on Martha Hawkins Place, a newly built street. Police said the victim was a retired Navy man who was fatally injured in the collapse of a house that he was planning to buy. The man had gone there with his wife to close the windows, neighbors said.
Neighbors said that they helped extricate the wife from the rubble and that she urged them to rescue her husband. His body was recovered late last night.
The other fatality, which occurred outside Prince Frederick in Calvert County, about 20 miles to the east along the storm's violent track, occurred when a house off Hallowing Point Road was destroyed, according to Don Hall, the director of emergency management for Calvert County. A second person in that house was seriously injured.
At least 60 people were treated last night at two hospitals in the vicinity of the storm.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company