- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

A tornado plowed through the University of Maryland campus last night, killing two students and injuring scores of others. The two victims, who were not identified last night, were inside a car in a parking lot behind Denton Hall when they were crushed by flying debris.
Hundreds of students and faculty were treated for cuts and scrapes after the twister struck at about 5:20 p.m.
"There is immense destruction throughout this campus," Prince George's County fire spokesman Mark Brady said. "About 20 vehicles are turned over on top of each other."
Trees were snapped in half, electrical fires ignited on telephone poles and transformer boxes, and windows were blown out of the university's new performing arts center. Damage also was reported in Laurel and Beltsville.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening declared a state of emergency in Prince George's and Howard counties, allowing state crews to assist with the search for victims. He described the damage as "more extensive and severe" than first thought.
"This is my hometown," said the governor, a former Prince George's County executive, who was in Annapolis when the twister hit. "It really brings it home."
The university canceled classes for today.
Elsewhere on the campus, Mr. Brady said, seven men were inside trailers belonging to the Maryland Fire Institute when the trailers collapsed. Two were taken to a trauma center, one with internal injuries and one with head injuries. Their conditions were not immediately known.
The names of the students killed were not released last night.
Ryan Wirt, 18, a freshman, said he saw the storm approaching, with yellow and blue lightning flashing inside the funnel, as he looked out his dorm window.
"It looked as big as my whole building," Mr. Wirt said.
"In some of the tornadoes, winds exceeded 100 miles per hour," National Weather Service spokesman Jim Travers said. "These were some pretty strong storms."
"It's the most impressive thing I've ever seen," John Dellaquila, a physiology student, said as he stood outside Denton Hall, a dormitory where 600 rooms were damaged.
Jason Jones, a first-year undergraduate, was sitting in his sixth-floor room writing e-mail messages when he saw the tornado coming.
"Stuff was just spinning inside of this pitch-dark, black cloud," he said afterward outside the building. "Then there was a blue explosion inside of it and that's when I ran."
Mr. Jones and another resident fled down an indoor fire escape. "As we were racing down the stairs, we could see the windows shatter," he said. "It was horrible."
Police immediately evacuated the hall so fire and rescue crews and campus police could assess the structural damage.
"We're trying to determine what we're dealing with," University Park Police Capt. Jay Gruber said.
The building's roof partially collapsed, bathroom stalls were ripped out on the eighth floor and several windows were shattered, sucking papers and other debris from the rooms.
Tahj Holden, 20, a junior and forward on the Maryland basketball team, said he, his teammates and a group of cheerleaders huddled at center court after a door blew off Cole Field House.
Near campus, the roofs of a Home Depot store and a church were blown off, Prince George's fire spokesman Capt. Chauncey Bowers said.
Rescue crews at the university were searching for anyone trapped underneath debris, Capt. Bowers said. A collapse rescue team from Montgomery County assisted. The same team helped find survivors after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
Windows of a campus dining hall were blown out and a clear path of downed trees, power lines and debris stretched from the university's northwestern edge.
In Laurel, about five miles north of the university, the roof was blown off a building at Laurel High School.
The tornado was part of a storm system that stretched along the entire Interstate 95 corridor, from Northern Virginia to Baltimore.
The system tied up traffic throughout the region during the evening rush hour.
In Virginia, extensive damage was reported in Culpeper County, where authorities reported several downed trees were blocking roads. Two minor injuries were reported, and one house, three mobile homes and two barns were destroyed in Jeffersonton, said dispatcher Renee Ford. A half-dozen houses, four mobile homes and two churches sustained heavy damage in the same northern part of the county, she said.
Warrenton police said as many as five homes were damaged, and three were described as uninhabitable. No injuries were reported, said a police dispatcher.
An undetermined number of homes were reported damaged in The Plains in Fauquier County, the National Weather Service said.
Shortly before 5 p.m., a tornado was reported in Franconia, moving northeast toward Arlington and Fairfax counties and Alexandria and Falls Church. At 5:02, a tornado was spotted in Arlington, just south of the Pentagon along Interstate 395.
At the height of the storms, as many as 11,000 homes in Arlington, Alexandria and Springfield lost electricity. Dominion Virginia Power officials said the number was reduced quickly to about 4,500, but a utility spokeswoman indicated some residents might not have service restored until today.
The storms were sparked by a cold front that moved slowly across the Appalachians late yesterday afternoon, causing thunderstorms and torrential rain across much of the state.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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