The National Weather Service said a confirmed tonado was reported near Laurel around 4:06 p.m. today, and the weather watchdog agency issued a severe thunderstorm warning, and a tornado warning for parts of Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties that are all in Laurel.
The tornado was moving east at 50 miles per hour, according to the NWS, and was spotted near Laurel, or possibly Columbia in Howard County.
The severe thunderstorm warning will last until 5 p.m. today, and the tornado warning was canceled at 4:30 p.m.
The sun was breaking through low clouds and there were only scattered raindrops in Laurel at 1 p.m. Thursday as closings were announced and AAA warned motorists to be careful in the evening commute. But the weather changed around 3:30 p.m., bringing heavy rain, thunder and dark, fast-moving clouds.
Laurel Emergency Services Director Marty Flemion and City Administrator Kristi Mills activated the city's Emergency Operations Center at city hall at 1 p.m., as Laurel Public Works prepares to monitor Laurel's streets for storm emergencies.
On Wednesday, the city took some precautionary steps and closed the MARC parking lot at the American Legion and Riverfront Park after WSSC opened a third gate at Duckett Dam to prepare for possible water level increases. The park, which runs along the Patuxent River north of Main Street, and the low-level parking area are usual flooding spots in Laurel, and parking was closed at the same spot last week when heavy rain brought the threat of flash flooding, but little damage, in Laurel. City officials warned commuters to find alternative parking on Thursday and Friday.
Officials with Laurel and Howard and Anne Arundel counties were warning those that camp in the woods near the river that flooding was possible. In January, a homeless woman drowned during flash flooding along the Patuxent River in a camp at the border of the city of Laurel and Anne Arundel County.
City officials reminded residents to gather fresh batteries, a battery-operated clock radio, nonperishable food items and blankets in the event that power is lost, and to charge cellphones and other wireless appliances. They also urged residents to use flashlights instead of candles if the lights go out.
Closings and cancellations
Riverfront Park north of Main Street is closed on Thursday.
The MARC parking lot at the American Legion is closed Thursday and possibly on Friday.
School's out for the summer, but all Prince George's County public schools and offices will close at 1 p.m.
County Council member Mary Lehman's District 1 Town Hall scheduled for Thursday night has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m. at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center.
Who to contact
For an emergency, call 911; city residents can call Laurel Police at 301-725-3000.
This story has been updated.