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Chopine 2
Chopine 2
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wprecht


Tornado (Sept 2001)

This was an interesting day.

I was at work late on Monday, the 24th of September 2001. That day, a strong cold front was moving through the area and at lunch (I went out for lunch), it looked ugly outside, but there had been no rain or anything. My next thoughts on weather occurred when the lights starting flickering on and off.

Now, a few comments about my work place. I work in the basement of the Center for Adult Education and the area my department is located in is actually a converted bomb shelter (the building was built in the 50’s). It looks fine, but don’t try to use a cell phone or listen to the radio. Normally this state of affairs is a pain in the ass.

Another aspect to working in this building is indicated by its new name: Inn and Conference Center. The Marriott Corp runs a 250 room hotel and 50,000 sq ft conference center on the ground floor, with a few meeting rooms in the second floor and the basement floors. That means we get another group of maggots that don’t know where the bathrooms are or that wander into our office area and no you can’t check your email here, every week.

So, back to the story, once the lights started flicking (meaning the computers had all shut down or rebooted depending on the BIOS setting), we decided to see what was happening out in the world to cause this state of affairs. We get our power from the U of MD College Park campus and it is pretty rock solid even in thunderstorms. Well there is a loading dock not too far from the office suite that affords a limited view to the west. From that vantage point, we could see that it was raining sideways and blowing real hard but, nothing too interesting.

That is when the ruckus started upstairs. Apparently, the Marriot people (we don’t hold them in very high esteem) thought that it was a good idea to send the conference du jour people into the lower concourse outside our office suite. The upper concourse (ground floor) is a long, much windowed affair, so in retrospect, that made a certain amount of sense, although the auditorium would have been as good. Being nosey I wandered up the stairs to see what could be seen and possibly give the conference managers a boot in the ass for finding a new way to annoy us.

Devastation was what I found. The front of the building is at the top of the stair and was this area of big trees and picnic tables. Well mostly there was fire wood and not a picnic table to be seen. Nothing was going on at the moment (weather-wise), it was ugly looking, but not even raining. So I went outside to inspect the damage (rather than stand there with my nose pressed to the glass like everyone else). It was impressive. I could see the President’s House (not normally visible because of the trees). While I was standing there, one of the Marriott sheep dogs (not really security, I am not sure what they call people who usher you around at a conference) wanders up and we chat about the damage for a few minutes. Then he mentions in an off hand way that “they are sort of asking everyone to stay inside for a while.” To which I reply, “This is over, it isn’t coming back.” He looks sheepish and wanders away.

Well, I was done looking here anyway. Now it was time to see if I get a new truck or not. The other side of the building didn’t fair any better, trees down everywhere. My truck was on the second story of the parking garage and in an interior space, so it was fine. Oh well. I retrieve my cell phone (see bomb shelter comment from above, no point to having it with me in the office) and go up to the 5th level. From there I can see that 193 is closed and no surprise. It takes me a few minutes to work out a way to get out of the parking garage by vehicle. The front is blocked by trees, the back faces MD193. So the only way out is to go out the back, come around the front of the building and up Adelphi Rd a bit before doubling back towards College Park proper.

Why would I want to do that? Well, I now believe that this was a tornado and it did wander off towards my rental house... Also, I duck back inside to call Kim and find out if there was anything going on up there. As it turns out, it passed about two miles away from the house and tore up a bunch of houses in Laurel, but no damage at the house other than about 4 inches of rain in one hour. She was also waiting to hear from me, since she had the news on TV, she knew more about College Park than I did. She told me that they confirmed that it was an F3 tornado and College Park was a war zone (which I already knew).

OK, so now off to see the rental; easier said than done. I waited an hour or so before setting out to let traffic die down and I stuck to the back streets where possible, but it still took me an hour and a half to make it the 3 miles up to the house. I am renting the house to a couple of college kids, Adam and Mandy. Mandy is finishing up her degree and Adam is out in the wide world working. So, en route, Adam calls my cell phone and tells me, “Mandy says a tornado hit your house, but it is OK.” Cryptic, to be sure, I tell him that I am on the way already and will meet him there as he is on the way home from work. Also while on the way, Oswulf called me with a flyby report from Sean, he passes by the road the house is on the way home from work. According to Sean, the street looks like it was bombed, no details on the house, but it doesn’t look good from Cherry Hill Road.

Well getting there is such a chore, I figured to park at the Home Depot across the street and walk over to avoid the fallen tree problem, but Home Depot and the whole strip mall has it’s own issues and police have that blocked off. It is now dark though. No, Dark. There is still heavy cloud cover and there are no lights anywhere. All of North College Park is without power. The best I can due is pull into the downed trees on 47th Place and walk from there. I decide to walk down Cherry Hill Road, even though there is lots of really slow traffic there because I could avoid all the downed wires on 47th. Over on Park Drive there aren’t as many downed trees and lines, so that was a good call. Here though, the neighborhood guys were already cutting up the trees and using trucks to pull them clear to open the road. This gusto and cooperation is heartening to see. So I am able to jump through the remaining tree wreckage and get to the house.

Sure enough, the house is fine, though the extent of the damage to the neighborhood isn’t obvious because it’s so dark. I come back two days later to take the pictures below and assess the damage. It takes me two more hours to find a way out of this heavily damaged section of College Park and get home. (Hits: 1581)

Found: 13 image(s) on 1 page(s). Displayed: image 1 to 13.

47th Place
47th Place (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
Comments: 0
Austin House
Austin House (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
Comments: 0
Autoville Road
Autoville Road (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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Austin Backyard
Austin Backyard (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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Car
Car (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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Church
Church (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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The Park
The Park (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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Linens and Things
Linens and Things (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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Park 1
Park 1 (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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More Park
More Park (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
Comments: 0
UMCP President's House
UMCP President's House (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
Comments: 0
Trailers, post tornado
Trailers, post tornado (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
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Up the hill
Up the hill (wprecht)
Tornado (Sept 2001)
Comments: 0
   



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