- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

A killer tornado that sliced through Prince George's County, Md. on Monday night caused about $16.5 million worth of damage, excluding damage on the University of Maryland at College Park campus, county fire officials said yesterday.
Fire department spokesman Chauncey Bowers released the preliminary estimate yesterday, saying that 861 homes, 560 vehicles and 23 businesses countywide were damaged Monday.
Much of the devastation was centered around College Park, where the twister killed two sisters attending the university, but Mr. Bowers said the on-campus damage estimate will be released by the state.
Officials in Howard County, where the tornado also caused extensive destruction, were assessing the damage yesterday. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency also were assessing damage yesterday, said MEMA spokesman Quentin Banks.
"With this much damage, these assessments could go into the weekend, and it is possible that the state will be able to cover it, but the National Weather Service told us that the tornado left a line of destruction at least 45 miles long," Mr. Banks said.
Aides of U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said his office expects MEMA to forward an application for federal aid to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who declared parts of Mr. Hoyer's district a disaster area Monday night.
There was some concern that federal disaster aid funds would be tapped out after covering the cost of damage wrought by terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, even with Congress' $40 billion emergency aid appropriation. But officials said federal funds would be made available in times of need.
"Looking at past history, the federal government has never failed the American people when it comes to disaster relief," said Christi Harlan, a FEMA spokeswoman.
However, the agency is thin on manpower in this region, and agents from other regions would have to be brought in if Mr. Glendening decides to request aid, officials said.
"There is no doubt that we are stretched thin in terms of manpower dealing with the damage from the terrorist attacks. So we will rely on some of our staff in the West, where there are fewer disasters right now, to come in and handle the tornado" said Ross Fredenburg, a FEMA spokesman for the Mid-Atlantic region.
Most of the tornado destruction occurred in College Park, Laurel and Beltsville, but extensive damage was also recorded in areas as far north as Columbia.
Work crews continued to clean up yesterday, removing debris, cutting down weak tree limbs and removing partially uprooted trees.
Utility crews restored electricity to nearly all the remaining 400 customers by yesterday evening, but some will remain without power until today . More than 40 homes in Beltsville, College Park and Laurel could need entire electrical systems replaced before the Potomac Electric Power Co. can safely restore power. In some instances, power meters were ripped from homes.
"It was total devastation out there. We had to repair that entire infrastructure we had more than 100 poles down," said Pepco spokesman Bob Dobkin.
Pepco is urging anyone experiencing electrical failure to call in to the hot line 877/PEPCO-62.
Guy Taylor contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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