Fallston storm

At the height of Friday night's storm and tornado in Fallston, the shop building near Belair Road collapsed, trapping a man inside. Friends are raising money to help defray his legal bills. (TED HENDRICKS | AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / June 7, 2012)

"It was through in 20 seconds; it's hard to believe so much damage could happen in so little time," Brian Schorr said as he stood outside his Fallston home Saturday morning.

Schorr's home is the first in a group of 20 three-story, detached homes with narrow lots on the north side of the 200 block of Milton Avenue, just off Belair Road, where what several witnesses say was a tornado swept through around 6 p.m. Friday, shearing or uprooting trees and damaging homes and businesses.

Schorr lives in the home with his wife and their two children, ages 7 and 9. He was home alone with the family dog when the storm came through.

"It was nothing like I've ever experienced," said Schorr, who has lived in the neighborhood called Fallston Crossing for seven years. The 100 or so homes were built on the site of the former Fallston General Hospital.

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Schorr, whose home appeared to have suffered the most damage, said about half his roof was gone but there appeared to be no structural damage to his home. Part of his deck was twisted in an odd way, probably meaning it will have to be taken down and rebuilt. The supports of a few decks on other houses in the row snapped off midway from the ground.

Not long after the storm hit, an emergency contractor came through the community and helped get the roof covered and stabilized, Schorr said. Throughout Saturday morning, pickups with ladders, work trucks, a truck hauling a wood chipper and roofer's trucks drove slowly through the community looking for work.

"It's amazing how they apparently follow disaster to disaster," Schorr said, though he was very thankful the people who helped him with the roof had come by.

Schorr, who works at the Sparrows Point steel mill, had a doubly bad week. The mill is on the verge of closing, and he said he expects to be laid off any day. "I'm waiting for number three to happen," he added.

"Thankfully, nobody got hurt, that's the main thing," he said, as his daughter, Sophie, brought some of the downed tree branches to the curb in her wagon.

Another Milton Avenue resident, a woman who declined to give her name, said she was home with her infant twins and saw the funnel cloud go through behind the houses. She said she had never seen a tornado before, but was sure she of what she saw.

Taking shelter

"Yes, we were scared," she said. "We got the warning to take shelter, but I had to think what was my 'safe room.'" The houses all have walk-out basements. Half have a ground floor room without windows, the other half don't, she and a neighbor explained.

Judging from the damage in the area, which was reported from the area of Whitaker Mill and Old Joppa roads to around Harford and Connolly roads, the twister moved northeast to southwest, if it was in fact a twister. One photograph posted on Facebook by a person driving through the area at the time suggests it was.

Most of the homes along Schorr's stretch of Milton Avenue suffered damage ranging from roof shingles, shutters, siding, trim and gutters being blown off to decks and fences ripped up. The twister most likely followed a path behind the homes, as it did even more damage just to the south. Farther into Fallston Crossing, going toward Harford Road, however, there was little or no evidence of damage, save for a few pieces of roof flashing on the ground.

Around the corner from Schorr's home, on West Grove Avenue, a small, dead-end street that parallels Belair Road, Laurie Thomas was directing her daughter where to take photographs for the insurance company.

The Thomas property, which runs behind the homes on Milton Avenue, is used for their family excavating business, S. Thomas Contracting. Laurie Thomas said her husband, Steve, grew up in the 63-year-old brick rancher that is the company's office. The Thomases live in Jarrettsville.

"There's a lot of damage back there," Laurie Thomas said, as she pointed to a lot with several trucks parked along both sides. Trees were down at the far end of the lot, and Thomas said there were dump trucks and bulldozers behind them. "I couldn't even tell one of the trucks was in there because a tree was covering it," she said.

Because it had begun raining about a half hour before the tornado hit, Thomas said her crews had returned from work for the day, picked up their paychecks and left before the damage occurred. No one was in the office, either.

"We're fortunate nobody here was hurt," she said. If the twister had come earlier, she added, "the damage would have been done to their [the employees] vehicles."

Thomas said her insurance company told her the most important thing to do was get photos of all the damage. She said they first realized what happened after seeing televised reports about the storm Friday evening.