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The Baltimore Sun

State might seek aid

The University of Maryland, College Park campus suffered at least $15 million in damage from Monday's deadly tornado, according to a preliminary estimate from school officials.

The figure was released by UM spokesman George Cathcart as inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and their Maryland counterparts tour- ed devastated areas on campus and elsewhere in preparation for an anticipated application for federal assistance.

Meanwhile, cleanup efforts made speedy progress, most roads reopened and power outages were down to about 300 homes and businesses.

The estimated costs of repairs are certain to grow as reports from Laurel and other areas along the twister's 10-mile path are completed - possibly as early as today.

Michael Morrill, a spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said he thought it was "likely that the state would qualify for federal assistance" once the damage estimates are confirmed.

The governor said earlier that Maryland would apply for aid if uninsured losses surpassed $5 million - the minimum for a federal claim.

Like many state and government facilities, buildings on the campus are not insured because officials believe it is cheaper to pay for repairs as needed than to buy protection.

The large, privately owned University Courtyard apartment complex off University Boulevard needs an estimated $1.5 million in repairs, its owner, Ambling Inc., said yesterday.

Two of eight buildings in the complex were ready for students to return to last night, and two more will be reopened this weekend, Cathcart said. The other four will be closed for repairs for another few weeks. Some residents of those buildings returned to their apartments with escorts yesterday to retrieve belongings.

Classes resumed at the University of Maryland, College Park, where workers have managed to clear most of the debris and fallen trees that littered the northern end of the campus.

As expected, College Park suffered extensive traffic tie-ups yesterday morning because of the closing of University Boulevard (Route 193), where downed power lines and trees still blocked the road.

By late afternoon yesterday, three of four lanes on U.S. 1 near the campus had been reopened, according to David Buck, a spokesman with the Maryland highway department.

University Boulevard was open later in the day, Buck said.

The UMCP parking lot where as many as 600 cars were damaged in the storm was mostly cleared yesterday, with the most severely damaged cars moved to the rear, Cathcart said.

"We had cots set up in the recreation center and the student union, but none of them were used, so it looks like most people were able to find friends and bunk up with them," said Cathcart.

A BGE spokeswoman said power was restored late Tuesday to all customers affected by the storm.

PEPCO, the District of Columbia-area utility, was working on 300 homes and businesses without electricity. Residents were given dry ice to keep their refrigerators cool, said company spokeswoman Makini Street.

Even those seriously injured by the funnel cloud said yesterday they were feeling better.

"I'm one of the most fortunate people around," said Brian Fuselier, 36, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute's information technology coordinator.

When the tornado leveled the institute's temporary home on the College Park campus, Fuselier was hit in the back by a bookcase - which fractured three vertebrae, cracked a rib and injured his lung. His spleen was removed Monday night, but Fuselier is expected to make a full recovery.

Officials in Laurel were pondering the fate of the now roofless and crumbling Harrison-Beard building, a masonry structure built in 1890 that is particularly important for the links to the past it provides for the city.

"This has more history than any other building in this town," said Gayle Snyder, chairwoman of the Historic District Commission. "It's really the cornerstone of Laurel. So much of the town's history revolves around it."

Snyder is a fourth generation Laurel resident and said her mother, Juanita Wellford, worked there for about 22 years, when it served as City Hall.

Harrison-Beard was slated for demolition yesterday morning, according to Laurel City Police spokesman Jim Collins, but worries that a decision to tear it down was being made too quickly kept it standing for at least one more day.

"As long as everyone believes that they truly did explore all other options, we'll just have to let it go," said Marlene Frazier, president of the Laurel Historical Society.

Harrison-Beard has housed everything from a department store to the police and fire departments. The Laurel Regional Hospital Auxiliary has run a thrift shop in the building for nine years.

Mayor Frank P. Casula and the City Council will make the final decision on the building's fate, Collins said. Casula was out of his office yesterday on personal business, his assistant said.

In Laurel, the tornado left no one seriously injured. But the storm claimed the lives of two University of Maryland students, Colleen and Erin Marlatt, and left one person in serious condition at Prince George's Hospital Center.

For now, yellow police tape blocks sad-eyed residents from getting too close to the deteriorated building. Many snap pictures of it, and tell stories that seem to all begin with, "I remember when."

Its signature red bricks lay in different sized piles around it. A few people sneaked across police lines to grab a brick as a memento. Broken ceiling beams and chunks of destroyed wall are visible through the shattered windows facing Ninth Street.

Yesterday afternoon, city workers carefully unwove the building's roof from a tangle of cables across the street, where the tornado had deposited it Monday night.

John Robinson, who has lived down the street from the building for all his 52 years, has seen firsthand a large chunk of the building's history. "I just can't imagine it not being there," he said.

When Robinson was a child of maybe 4 or 5, he estimates, he would marvel at the fire engine parked in its garage.

Robinson recalled that the old fire station was one of the first places in Laurel to have a television set, making it a gathering place for the whole town.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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