The county fire dept examines a tree that fell onto Kim Martin-Haynes' home in Columbia. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)
A day after a tornado touched down in Columbia, Howard County crews spread out across the area to clear downed trees and assess damage to buildings.
A line of thunderstorms spawned the tornado after it tapped into strong wind shear and varying air temperatures.
The tornado touched down just after 3:30 p.m. Thursday and cut a 5.5-mile southeasterly path at an estimated 40 mph, according to a storm survey conducted by the National Weather Service and released late Friday afternoon.
The EF1 tornado, which can bring speeds from 86 to 110 mph, uprooted and snapped trees beginning on Maryland Route 108 in Clarksville. The tornado continued toward Columbia, where a witness saw swirling debris and a tree hitting a house.
It crossed over Cedar Lane in Hickory Ridge near Corina Court and continued toward Route 29, near Shaker Drive and Seneca Road where Hickory Ridge meets Kings Contrivance.
At least one woman was injured after a tree crashed on a residence in the 10200 block of Wayover Way, off Shaker Drive in Kings Contrivance. She was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, according to county fire officials.
The most significant damage was found near the 9400 block of Patuxent Woods Drive near Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance villages, “where a grove of hardwood and softwood trees were snapped about midway up their trunks, falling haphazardly,” the survey said.
A portion of the roof of an office building in the 9700 block of Broken Land Parkway near Snowden River Parkway in Owen Brown in Columbia came off during the storm, the weather service said.
The service reported that strong winds also caused damage in Howard County in areas that were close to the tornado, including in Savage and Highland.
That led to widespread physical damage, with about 9,000 county residents losing power.
On Friday morning, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball dispatched public works department officials into communities to assess the damage.
Crews from the county and Columbia Association fanned out, cleaning up debris, taking down trees and chipping branches.
Kris Jagarapu, deputy chief for Howard County’s Bureau of Highways, said there were roughly 150 trees down along county roadways.
All roadways in the county were passable Friday except for Havilland Mill Road, southwest of Clarksville, which is still closed due to trees in wires. BGE is working on making repairs, Jagarapu said.
With a chainsaw and blower in hand, Russ Kelly was working on cutting a fallen tree into movable pieces in his yard on Roveout Lane in Kings Contrivance.
Kelly said he was watching TV Thursday when he realized the storm was imminent and took cover in the basement. Then he heard a snap.
“I ran back to the window to look. I knew trees came down,” he said.
The tops of two trees, both on the edge of his property and approximately 10 feet long, covered his neighbors’ driveway. Luckily, his neighbors had moved their car before the storm hit, he said.
After the storm passed, Kelly, 62, alongside at least seven neighbors, helped remove the long branches from the driveway.
Daniel Soong, a 16-year-old sophomore at River Hill High School in Clarksville, said he and other students in the school’s auditorium had to duck and cover for nearly 10 minutes in the building’s tornado safe area as lights flickered.
When he got home, Soong said he found a large tree snapped in half and other debris. His electricity was off as of Thursday afternoon, and his house was running on generator power.
After the storm, Ball criticized the Howard County Council’s recent efforts to move $8 million out of the county government’s proposed operating budget to fund the school system’s transportation software needs, substitute teacher pay and maintain current class sizes. The move will severely reduce services from departments including public works that responded to the storm, he said.
“Today’s storms and response is a strong reminder that every dollar counts when we are responsible for the public safety of our residents and I encourage the Howard County Council to stand with me in protecting the services and resources of the county government,” Ball said in the post.