Bedford Glascock, 74, thought he heard a freight train on his roof. So he switched off the History Channel and said he looked out the window just in time to see a tornado knock down the barn his grandfather built in 1935.

The dark gray funnel then spun across his empty field Sept. 28 and battered the Solomons Visitor Center, ripping off major sections of the building's roof. "Boards went flying every which way," Glascock said. "It hit some boards 100 feet up in the air."

And then, after 15 seconds, the spinning wind stopped, witnesses said.

Bobby Fenwick, Calvert County's emergency management director, said there were no injuries. He said the only major damage was to Glascock's barn and the visitor center, though some businesses at the Patuxent Area Shopping Center also were affected.

The visitor center is being repaired, but Glascock said he may not rebuild the old barn. After his family closed their dairy farm two decades ago, the structure functioned only as storage space for equipment. It may not be worth the trouble to rebuild, he said.

Glascock said he's not particularly upset about the 70-year-old barn's demise. "These things happen," he said.

Officially, it is unclear if last week's event was, in fact, a tornado. The National Weather Service did not detect a tornado in Solomons, though Fenwick said that could be attributed to its short duration. Fenwick referred to the weather as "a tornadic-type storm."

Witnesses, however, are convinced that the event was a bona fide tornado.

"It was the worst wind I have ever known," said Glascock, who still remembers the 90 mph gusts of Hurricane Hazel in 1954. "If it wasn't a tornado, it was close to it."

Referendum Opposed

House Republican Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell is opposing a ballot referendum that would alter Calvert County's form of government to Code Home Rule.

The measure before Calvert voters Nov. 2 would give county commissioners more authority to adopt local legislation. Currently, many local laws must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

"I don't believe we have a system that is broken," O'Donnell (Calvert) said Monday night during a meeting of the Republican Women Leaders of Calvert. "There is no groundswell for this by the citizens. It's being driven by the commissioners."

In August, the commissioners voted 4 to 1 to put the issue on the ballot. They said Code Home Rule would allow them to better govern the fast-growing county instead of cluttering the agenda of the legislature.

But O'Donnell said there is a benefit to keeping the General Assembly involved. "It creates a check and balance."

O'Donnell said if there were a need to change the county's form of government, he would support adopting a charter instead of Code Home Rule. But, he added, "there is no need for a change now."

Democrats Meet

The Charles County Democratic Central Committee gathered Tuesday night in La Plata to discuss the process for filling the vacancy left by former state delegate Van T. Mitchell (D-Charles), who resigned last week to take a job in the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

During the meeting at the American Legion Hall in La Plata, the 12-member committee set a deadline of Oct. 12 for applications from anyone interested in the House of Delegates position. On that day, the committee will review materials submitted by all candidates and develop interview questions, members said.

The interviews will be held Oct. 15 at the office of committee member Rudolph A. Carrico Jr., a lawyer in La Plata.

Among those who have expressed interest in Mitchell's position are Charles County commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large), former delegate Samuel C. "Buddy" Linton and Charles County fiscal services Director Richard Winkler. The committee has until Oct. 30 to submit its recommendation to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for appointment. The replacement would serve out Mitchell's term, which ends in January 2007.

Clinton Aide to Speak

Former president Bill Clinton's personal secretary, Betty Currie, will be the guest speaker at this year's NAACP fall banquet Oct. 16, the organization announced this week.

Currie was born in Edwards, Miss., and soon after moved, with her nine brothers and sisters, to Waukegan, Ill. She attended Howard University, American University and Antioch College.

In addition to her service in the White House, Currie has worked for the Navy, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After having "retired" from government service in 1984, she volunteered for Operation Rescue, the United Way, the Commission on the Status of Women, Rainbow Christian Services, and the presidential campaigns of Michael S. Dukakis (1988) and Clinton (1991). From 1992 until 2000, Currie served as Clinton's personal secretary.

Currie lives in St. Mary's County with her husband and former White House first cat, Socks. She has a grown daughter.

Currie will speak on the theme "Take Time to Make a Difference." The banquet also will feature local youth performer J.W. Price and a fashion show by Culture Shock Productions.

The banquet will be at the Chancellor's Run Activity Center in Great Mills. Doors open at 6 p.m., with dinner served at 6:30 p.m. For ticket information, call 301-994-0978 or 301-994-2656.

Forums on Election Issues

As the Nov. 2 election approaches, Calvert County residents and others have a chance to attend a series of public forums being presented by the League of Women Voters in conjunction with the College of Southern Maryland and the Calvert Library.

The events are intended to encourage voter participation and to provide an opportunity to discuss several major issues.

The first forum took place last month and focused on the importance of voting. World Wide Entertainment professional wrestler (and Harvard graduate) Chris Nowinski shared top billing with Linda Lamone, Maryland's election administrator. Nowinski is national spokesman for the "Smack Down the Vote" campaign aimed at getting people registered to vote and to the polling places on Election Day.

The next forum is titled "Terrorism: How Safe is Calvert County?" It is scheduled at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Mary Harrison Cultural Arts Center on the Northern High School campus in Chaneyville.

Linda Lamone, Maryland's elections chief, spoke about the importance of voting at a recent forum on election issues.