Deadly Tornado Hits Southern Maryland
Some residents hunkered down as the storm roared by, then stepped outside to shake their heads and marvel at their luck.
Amy Reese, who lives on Hawkins Gate Road, near where the man died in La Plata, said that after the storm passed, she walked to the end of the street and found several two-story houses severely damaged, with some reduced to their foundations.
"We came down the road, and everything was gone," Reese said.
Houses were also reported destroyed in the Clarks Run section and in the Quailwood section.
After leaving Charles County, the twister apparently continued on a generally eastward track.
Hall, the Calvert director of emergency management, said the tornado was on the ground for four to five miles in Calvert, mostly southwest of Prince Frederick.
A dozen homes were damaged, Hall said, and numerous trees were toppled.
It appeared that the storm then crossed the Chesapeake Bay, where it damaged a house and a barn in the the Taylors Island area of Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore.
Hail and strong winds had been reported across the Washington area since late afternoon. High winds felled trees, tossed tractor-trailers and mobile homes and collapsed houses and barns across Virginia.
The Associated Press reported that the worst damage in Virginia was concentrated in the Lynchburg and Bedford areas, where hail, heavy rain and high winds destroyed at least 50 homes and many other buildings. Heavy damage was also reported farther north in the Shenandoah Valley, along Interstate 81 near the town of Quicksburg.
The storms forced the closure of a section of Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border, as well as the northbound lane of the Route 301 bridge connecting Virginia and Maryland over the Potomac River, Virginia State Police said. There were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries in Virginia.
About 4 p.m., a witness reported seeing a funnel cloud in Fauquier County. National Weather Service alerts, based on radar information, indicated that the cloud was apparently headed east across Prince William County and toward the Potomac.
It was not immediately clear last night whether the cloud had touched down in other spots in Charles County before smashing into La Plata.
Although tornadoes more commonly strike in the Midwest and Missouri Valley, they are not unknown in the Washington area. Southern Maryland has been particularly hard hit.
On Nov. 9, 1926, a powerful tornado, known as Maryland's most severe in more than 100 years, hit about five miles southwest of La Plata, leaving 14 people dead and 56 injured as it moved across Charles County.
Last year, a powerful tornado inflicted heavy damage in the College Park area, and other tornadoes have struck Southern Maryland several times in the past 10 years.
Although tornadoes cannot be precisely predicted, yesterday's storm was not unexpected.
Hours before the storm hit, the Weather Service had issued a tornado watch, indicating that conditions were favorable for the spawning of tornadoes. The air was warm and wet, with record rain falling in much of the area overnight and yesterday.
Staff writers David A. Fahrenthold, Theola Labbé, Raymond McCaffrey and Jamie Stockwell contributed to this report.
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