Damage grows in MD

BY SUSAN KIM | COLLEGE PARK, MD | September 25, 2001

"Whenever anything happens on campus, everybody runs outside to see."

—Rev. Dick Graham

Even more damage was discovered Wednesday from Maryland's worst tornado in 75 years. With costs already estimated at $10 million by Wednesday afternoon, cleanup continued in a 10-mile trail between the College Park and Laurel areas.

The F3 twister packed 200-mph winds that flung cars, uprooted trees, and destroyed homes. Three deaths were attributed to the storm -- two sisters who were University of Maryland students and one volunteer firefighter.

"The devastation is just stunning," said Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening after touring the twister's path. "It is a miracle that more people weren't killed or injured."

Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were assessing damages Wednesday after what could end up being Maryland's costliest tornado in history.

The worst-hit building was a triple-wide trailer on the campus of University of Maryland that was being temporarily occupied by the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. "A lot of the people who trained in that building came out and responded when the tornado hit," said Quentin Banks, public information officer for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

The Salvation Army deployed canteens to help feed emergency personnel, with some Salvation Army crews coming directly from the Pentagon, where they were assisting rescue crews in the ongoing aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the city of Laurel, a townhouse complex was nearly demolished and an annex to the Laurel High School sustained heavy damage. Laurel also lost a piece of its history when the tornado demolished the Harrison-Beard building, built in 1890. The structure once served as City Hall.

"There was no choice," said Jim Collins, spokesperson for the Laurel Police Department. "Everyone has a memory of that building."

The building also served as a fire and police station, and most recently housed the Laurel Regional Hospital Auxiliary.

The twister touched down about 5:20 p.m. Monday.

The steeple of the Pentecostal Holiness Church -- adjacent to the campus -- was torn off and it punched a gaping hole in the buildning.

Many university buildings sustained damage, and windows of buildings and cars were shattered throughout the campus.

Banks credited a local news radio station, WTOP, with providing a clear warning and specific instructions on what to do to stay safe.

The Rev. Dick Graham, pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in College Park, said he went to the church after the tornado passed and opened it up in case people were in need.

A student from the school of architecture stopped by, said Graham, and described the tornado. "He and some other students were standing in the lobby of their building, thinking that the sky looked funny. Then they actually saw two very large tornadoes. They said by the time they started to think they shouldn't be standing by all those windows, it was past."

Graham said it was lucky that there weren't more deaths. "There could have been a bunch more," he said. "Because whenever anything happens on campus, everybody runs outside to see."

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