Severe thunderstorms producing one tornado pounded Central Maryland Tuesday afternoon, toppling trees and power lines and sending marble crashing from the roof of Baltimore's City Hall.
An Ef-0 tornado with wind speeds reaching 80 mph touched down about 1:30 p.m. near Poplar Springs of western Howard County, the National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday night. Over 20 minutes, the tornado traveled nearly 13 miles east, leaving a path of debris as wide as 500 yards, and it lifted off before Ellicott City, meteorologists said.
"These thunderstorms are a little unusual in that they've been training over the same area," said meteorologist Ray Martin.
The storms dumped more than an inch of rain within one hour on Howard County and Baltimore. Penny-size hail was recorded at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
BGE reported about 48,000 outages across its service territory in Maryland. There were 5,300 outages reported in Baltimore County, 3,100 in Anne Arundel and more than 22,000 in Howard, where storm damage was reported across Glenwood, Clarksville and Columbia.
"This storm, as far as summertime storms go, was far more severe than what we're accustomed to," said Ryan Miller, Howard County's emergency management director.
No serious injuries or deaths were reported, he said.
"We've clearly got a lot of wires down ... trees across roadways, trees into homes, some pretty significant damage," Miller said.
The heaviest wind blew and rain fell between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. That's around when a possible lightning strike sent marble crashing through an atrium at Baltimore City Hall, said Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
No one was hurt when two chunks of marble fell from molding on the roof and shattered panes in the atrium's glass ceiling.
"We're not sure on the estimate yet," McCarthy said of the repair costs. "We should have that within the next day or so."
In Howard County, 33 school buildings leaked, were damaged by winds or lost power, schools spokesman John White said.
Tree limbs six inches in diameter scattered across roadways in Columbia, according to reports received by the weather service. Large trees "twisted and broken in half" were reported near Glenelg High School. Some trees toppled at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship.
The weather service issued a tornado warning across the county about 1:45 p.m. Radar indicated possible rotation in the heart of the storm.
Early reports to the National Weather Service indicated quarter-size hail in Severn, dime-size hail in Ellicott City and a 62 mph wind gust at BWI.
The downpours caused two sewage overflows into the Jones Falls, each expected to exceed 10,000 gallons, city officials said.
Also, the Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards was delayed about a half-hour Tuesday.
By 10 p.m. Tuesday, BGE had restored power to nearly 31,000 customers, according to the utility. More than 15,000 remained without power. The most outages, more than 10,000, lingered in Howard County.
Another band of intense thunderstorms is forecast in Maryland for Thursday afternoon and evening, Martin said.
"I hope people are ready for more," he said.