At least six tornadoes struck the Washington region Friday during the hours of storms that knocked out power, delayed travel, and brought wind, rain, thunder and lightning.
The National Weather Service said it had confirmed two tornadoes in Montgomery County and one in Prince Georges. Three others were confirmed in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Harford counties. Two injuries were linked to the Harford twister, which, at EF-1, was the strongest confirmed so far.
Meanwhile, as the storm cleanup continued, a firefighter looked back on Friday and, in the modest way of a seasoned public safety officer, allowed that “these kinds of rescues don’t happen every day.”
Steve White, a technical services battalion chief with the Prince George’s County fire department, was talking about how his team saved three teenagers who had fallen into a storm- swollen tributary of the Anacostia River. They were being swept away.
As they headed helplessly downstream, the three grabbed at the supports of the 38th Street Bridge over the Northwest Branch in the Mount Rainier area and held on for dear life. On Friday evening, lives depended on White and his crew.
“This was a life-or-death situation,” said Mark Brady, spokesman for the fire department.
White had to think quickly. “We had kids in the middle of the water,” he said. The question was “how do we get to them?”
In Friday’s incident, the answer was an intricate system of ropes and pulleys. The rig would lower a firefighter to the youths, and bring them up, one by one.
Although the technique was elaborate and the situation tense, White had something to rely on. He and his team had practiced repeatedly, knowing that as rare as Friday’s situation was, they had to be ready for it. All three youths were pulled to safety, along with Joe Ford, the firefighter who had gone down to help them, in perhaps the most dramatic element in an evening of weather drama.
Trains were stalled, roads were flooded, and the National Weather Service issued an estimated 23 tornado warnings.
The weather service confirmed that two small tornadoes touched down near Damascus in Montgomery County and one in the Springdale area of Prince George’s, near Route 50 and the Capital Beltway. The Anne Arundel tornado was near the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Thunderstorm winds caused damage in many places, including the Aldie area of Loudoun County where many trees were down along Route 15.
Seldom do successive days contrast more than Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s sunny skies showed no sign of the ominous darkness that spread over the region on Friday afternoon.
“Man, am I glad that is over,” read one comment posted on the Weather Gang site.