More Than 20 Killed as Storms Race Across U.S.

Hundreds of people will be digging through what's left of their homes after severe storms spawned tornados in the south and plains over the weekend. At least 22 people are dead in three states. Video by AP
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 12, 2008

A powerful storm system that has spun off several tornadoes and killed more than 20 people from Oklahoma to Georgia is expected to continue soaking the Washington area today, dumping up to two to three inches of rain on already-waterlogged ground, forecasters said yesterday.

Meteorologists said Washington would probably be spared the kind of damage inflicted on places including Picher, Okla.; Racine, Mo.; and Kite, Ga. The fast-moving storm, the latest in an especially deadly year for tornadoes, sped from the Great Plains to the Georgia coast in about 24 hours, flinging cars, toppling trees and smashing houses into fields of debris.

Forecasters said a remnant of the storm arrived last night and was expected to cross the Washington area today, whipping winds up to 40 mph. The storm could trigger minor flooding as heavy rains fall on a region still cleaning up from the last round of severe weather, when twisters hit Stafford County on Friday morning.

"The water's not going to have as much [of] a place to go," said Sarah Rogowski of the National Weather Service office in Sterling. "With the soil already saturated, you're going to have much more water standing on top."

More than 3 1/2 inches of rain were measured by midnight at Dulles International Airport, and water was surging onto low-lying roads throughout the Washington region.

In Fairfax County, firefighters began advising people in the Huntington area to evacuate as waters rose in flood-prone Cameron Run. High water was reported from St. Mary's County in Maryland to Spotsylvania County in Virginia, in Stafford and in Loudoun counties and in the Gainesville area of Prince William County, where numerous roads were reported closed.

In Maryland, small streams and ditches overflowed in Charles County, and flooding or high water was also reported in Frederick and Montgomery Counties.

The weather service issued a flood warning for the District and nearby Virginia to last until 5:30 a.m. today.

Already, officials said yesterday, this storm has made an awful year for tornadoes even worse. With 22 deaths over the past two days -- six in Oklahoma, 15 in Missouri and one in Georgia -- the toll from tornadoes stands at about 96, according to weather service statistics.

That means there have been more tornado-related deaths so far in 2008 than in any full year since 2000, the earliest year for which records were available yesterday. Last year's total was 81, and a typical year had fewer than 60.

Greg Carbin, who studies severe storms for the weather service, said it was unclear whether it was anything but bad luck, as tornadoes veered toward populous areas.

"I don't really have an answer as to why the numbers are the way they are," Carbin said.

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