Deadly Tornado Hits Southern Maryland
More than 40 were brought to Civista Medical Center in La Plata, many with cuts and bruises. Some were X-rayed for fractures. Most were released, but seven were sent to other hospitals, a spokeswoman said. Civista is about a half-mile east of the scene of heaviest damage in La Plata. Five windows were blown out at the hospital, and power came from an emergency generator, the spokeswoman said.
Twenty people, many of them cut by flying glass, were taken to the Fort Washington Medical Center in Prince George's County.
Rescue workers were going door to door at damaged sites in Calvert County last night checking for people who might have been trapped. A shelter was set up at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, and about a dozen people were in it early today.
One of them, Daniel Knott, said the windows in his La Plata apartment were blown out.
"I thank God for being alive," he said.
In the first hours after the storm hit, rescue workers swarmed into La Plata's downtown area, where power had been knocked out and damaged or overturned cars dotted the blocked streets. In some of the cars, air bags had deployed.
Some residents described startling sights and sounds as well as hair's-breadth escapes.
Thelma Holton, who lives in Newburg, near La Plata, was in a van with 10 other people when she saw what looked like rubbish flying upward from a fire.
It started "forming around our car," she said, "and we saw heavy things flying in the air."
"We all dropped to the floor of our van and started praying," she said. Then the van's windows shattered, she said, and the vehicle's occupants crawled through the back windows to safety.
A tornado warning had been broadcast, and Fred Parsons Jr. said that when he heard it, he looked outside his La Plata home to see a tree flying through the air. Also, he said, he saw "hail as big as my fist."
Francis Barnes Jr., 19, of Waldorf was working at the KFC when a customer, like a latter-day Paul Revere, pulled up to the drive-through window about 7:15 p.m. and warned that a funnel cloud was coming.
At almost the same moment, the storm struck the building, which had about 20 people inside.
"Everybody started screaming, 'Get down, get down,' " Barnes said. Glass was everywhere.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company