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MD town reels after tornado

BY SUSAN KIM | LA PLATA, MD | April 29, 2002

Rescuers were still

pulling people from the rubble Monday morning after a

rare tornado struck southern Maryland Sunday evening,

killing three people and injuring nearly 100.

Cutting a 10-mile stretch through this town of 6,500

people, the twister leveled homes, destroyed a water

tower that has stood for decades, demolished the town's

business sector, and sent frightened patients in the

local hospital into closets and bathrooms to take cover

when the windows blew out.

Damage assessments were still in beginning stages early

Monday, and emergency management officials did not yet

know the number of homes that were destroyed or damaged.

But large sections of the town -- including the center

of the business district -- are simply wiped out.

Roofs were ripped from homes and stores, power lines

toppled, trees downed, and vehicles overturned.

Meteorologist teams were at the site Monday morning

trying to determine how strong the tornado actually was.

Some meteorologists said, judging by the devastation,

the twister was at least an F3.

A curfew was set in La Plata to keep people off the

streets, and public schools in Charles County were

closed Monday. Emergency response officials were asking

volunteers who want to help to refrain from traveling to

La Plata since emergency vehicles are still trying to

access the area.

Some 6,500 homes were without power Monday.

Eyewitnesses described the funnel cloud as some 20 feet


La Plata is some 30 miles south of Washington, DC.

Powerful storms Sunday spawned more than 15 tornadoes

that hit states from Kentucky to New York and from

Missouri in the west to Maryland in the east.

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