Tornadoes Touch Down in Pr. George's, Charles

A series of tornadoes strike Maryland, sending trees into houses and ripping the roof off a school. No one was injured. Video by AP
By Daniel de Vise and Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 21, 2008

Two tornadoes ripped across parts of Washington's Maryland suburbs yesterday, lifting roofs, smashing windows and toppling trees, as thunderstorms soaked the area. No injuries were reported immediately from the twisters, which struck Prince George's and Charles counties.

However, authorities said heavy rain contributed to a chain-reaction crash on the Capital Beltway in Prince George's that left several people with potentially life-threatening injuries.

The storms turned Earth Day festivities on the Mall into a sea of mud, disrupted a celebrated Annapolis croquet match and produced lightning that forced an airliner to make an emergency landing.

The National Weather Service confirmed last night that the damaging storms that tore through the Langley Park-Chillum area of Prince George's and the Waldorf-La Plata area of Charles were tornadoes, although relatively small ones.

Both apparently were produced between 2 and 3 p.m. by what the Weather Service said was the same parent storm, which swept north from Charles into Prince George's.

"It was ferocious. It was terrible," said Isabella Sampson, who lives in the Chillum area on Riggs Road, where the most damage was reported. "It was frightening. Very frightening."

Part of the roof of the George E. Peters Adventist School on Riggs Road was torn off by winds estimated at 100 mph by the Weather Service. An adjacent parking lot was filled with broken two-by-fours and heaps of pink insulation.

The Weather Service said the first of the tornadoes apparently touched down just south of Waldorf about 2:10 p.m. at Renner Road and Route 5.

From there, the tornado, with winds up to about 80 mph, about the minimum for a tornado, jabbed north on a track two miles long and 50 to 100 yards wide.

Doors popped off a storage shed. Roofing material was ripped from the tops of houses. Several large trees snapped, and some came down on houses and cars.

Shuaib Mitchell, who lives on Sweetbriar Place, called it "pretty violent." Part of a neighbor's roof was "torn apart," he said, windows were broken, and a tree fell on a car. He had seen strong storms, he said, but "not one like that."

The second tornado touched down about 2:35 p.m. at Sargent and Ray roads in Chillum. The tornado crossed woods and appeared to reach its peak intensity at the Peters school.

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