Neighbors take stock of storm damage in Howard County, across region

After a storm that brought a tornado in Howard County, residents are taking stock of the damage.

Families in battered Howard County spent Wednesday surveying damage from thunderstorms and a tornado the previous afternoon that toppled trees and power lines.

Utility crews worked to restore power to families still without service. After 10 p.m. Wednesday, about 260 families in Howard County remained without power. Some 340 utility customers were without power across the state, according to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

County officials had stationed water tankers for families that rely on wells and opened a community center for showers. The Civil Air Patrol scouted the wreckage.

The tornado, with winds reaching 80 mph, touched down about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday near Poplar Springs in western Howard County, the National Weather Service confirmed. During 20 minutes, the tornado traveled nearly 13 miles east, leaving a path as wide as 500 yards. It lifted off before Ellicott City.

"Fortunately, there were no injuries," said Mark Miller, a spokesman for Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman.

Kittleman and officials met Wednesday with a family whose home near Glenelg High School was split by a falling tree, Miller said.

"They were out there today helping and comforting the family," Miller said. Kittleman's daughter was a classmate of a member of the family. "He is very familiar with this family," Miller said.

Some members of the family sheltered in the basement when the tree crashed though the roof and upstairs bedrooms, he said.

As the cleanup continued, meteorologists warned that a derecho — an intense squall line like the one that caused hundreds of thousands of power outages across Maryland in June 2012 — could cross the Midwest and Ohio Valley late Wednesday into early Thursday.

It was not clear if such a storm would survive the night and cross the Appalachian Mountains into Maryland. But storm threats early Thursday extend into the Mid-Atlantic and the Delmarva Peninsula. Heavy downpours, damaging winds and large hail are possible.

"There is a lot of uncertainty regarding severe weather and flooding," meteorologists wrote in a forecast discussion Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday's storms damaged at least 22 buildings in Howard County, Miller said. The water tankers were stationed at Glenelg High School and Gary J. Arthur Community Center.

Fresh water would be available again at the sites Thursday, Miller said. About 50 people visited the community center Wednesday to shower and charge cellphones.

Summer school classes at Howard High were canceled Wednesday. All Howard County public school administrative buildings opened on time, the system said.

A 30-foot pine tree toppled across power lines on Sybert Drive in Ellicott City. The tree blocked the neighborhood from Meadowbrook Lane, neighbor Perry Knight said.

A BGE responder told neighbors the cable wires are owned by Verizon, Knight said, and the utility could not remove them.

"While I understand the logic and reasoning," he said, "it's really hard to accept no access to emergency services since [Tuesday] afternoon."

The tree was removed from the road before 11 a.m. Wednesday, and BGE and Verizon were repairing the downed lines, a BGE spokesperson said.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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