- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

The remains of Hurricane Ivan spun off widespread tornadoes yesterday while carving a path through Virginia, then Maryland, ripping apart homes and snapping trees and power lines.

Witnesses in Virginia reported tornadoes touching down in Remington and Bealeton in Fauquier County, in Manassas in Prince William County, and near Washington Dulles International Airport, as the storms raced north along Route 29 yesterday afternoon.

The state’s Department of Emergency Management said at least 15 tornadoes were reported.

Gov. Mark Warner declared a state of emergency because of the storms, allowing him to mobilize state police and National Guard units.

Fairfax County officials reported several homes damaged in Centreville and 35 homes were severely damaged in Manassas, sending about a dozen residents to a shelter.

In Maryland, the National Weather Service said at least three confirmed tornadoes touched down, including one that tore the roofs off two houses in Frederick County.

No deaths or injuries were reported in the region. However, the storm system has been blamed for at least 33 deaths in the Southeast.

Ivan hit the Gulf Coast early Thursday morning as a full-fledged hurricane with 130 mph winds, causing flooding and property damage.

The storm remained a hurricane as it blew inland with 75 mph winds, then was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved east-northeast with heavy rains and dangerous winds.

Tornado warnings and watches were issued, then canceled throughout the Washington area as the storm continued north at about 50 mph.

In Frederick County, Md., David Young of the Brunswick Volunteer Fire Company said he watched a funnel form and dark clouds pass over the firehouse shortly before 6 p.m.

“You could see them swirl up,” he said. “They were like working themselves together.”

The Weather Service said a confirmed tornado also touched down and damaged homes and property near the intersection of U.S. Route 340 and Maryland Route 17.

Amber Hagan, a clerk in a Sheetz convenience store at the junction, said she, co-workers and customers took cover in a bathroom as the storm raged.

“The roof of a barn came flying and hit someone’s car and just missed the store,” she said. “It was extremely scary.”

Many trees and wires were down, said Capt. David Chisholm of the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services.

“All of a sudden, the sky just sucked up,” said Brent Knott, 16, whose family’s two-story home is on Laurel Court.

He was outside with a friend when the storm arrived, then they immediately retreated to the basement.

“We looked at each other and were like ‘Whoa, we better get inside,’” he said.

When the storm had passed, he and the friend went outside again.

“Everything [attached to the house] was basically gone,” Brent said.

A 4-foot-long fence post was uprooted from a yard and hurled through the air before it punctured a nearby home.

On Woodwind Circle in Frederick, one of the tornadoes severely damaged three houses, leaving gaping holes that exposed their interiors to the pelting rain.

Along the cul-de-sac, firefighters scrambled to patch the holes before another storm arrived as neighbors gathered to offer help and sympathy.

In Montgomery County, a tornado reportedly touched down about seven miles south of Poolesville. A dispatcher with the Montgomery County Police Department said there were no immediate reports of damage there.

Most of the tornado advisories in the region were canceled before 9 p.m., but forecasters were preparing for another round of storms later last night.

More than a dozen tornadoes across Virginia toppled trees and damaged buildings and brought rain that posed the risk of flash floods and mudslides.

Tornadoes near Dulles Airport caused passengers to be taken off planes and told to take cover in concourses and on the lower level of the airport. The delays lasted about 30 minutes, but left some passengers stranded when their flights were diverted.

Before the storm raced north, a tornado about 200 yards wide struck during the lunch hour in Henry County, Va., near the North Carolina border.

When it crossed U.S. Route 220 near Fieldale, a tractor-trailer headed north was tossed off the road and over a guard rail, and another rig was turned onto its side in the highway median, Sheriff Frank Cassell said.

Utility companies reported only minor power outages, mostly in Northern Virginia.

There were no reports of major flooding in the region. However, flood watches remain in effect through today in the District and parts of Maryland counties and Virginia

Meteorologists predicted earlier that Ivan would dump as much as 7 inches of rain on the region and potentially cause flooding, before issuing a revised forecast for about 4 inches of rain this weekend.

Barbara Childs-Pair, acting director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, said the District’s government agencies will coordinate to set up stockpiles of sandbags, clear drainage basins, elevate pumping stations and set up temporary shelters.

Alexandria officials will have sandbags ready.

“Our emergency management team is watching the weather and the [Potomac] river,” said Barbara Gordon, a city spokeswoman. “But if need be, we’re ready to jump into action.”

Tom Orr of Montgomery County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation said the county’s storm-water retention ponds should minimize flooding in urban areas, but rural areas may have more trouble.

“And … don’t drive through standing water if you don’t know what’s under there,” Mr. Orr said.

Denise Barnes contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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