- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

1:55 p.m.

STERLING, Va. (AP) — The National Weather Service has posted a tornado watch for the District, suburban Maryland and parts of Northern Virginia in anticipation of a northbound storm that already has caused millions of dollars in damage and killed at least eight persons in the South.

The watch area includes the Virginia counties Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. It covers all of Maryland with the exception of the three westernmost counties.

The heavy winds and rain are expected to hit the region late this afternoon. The watches, which will remain in effect until 6 p.m., mean conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area.

The Weather Service also issued a flood warning for the Baltimore-Washington area until 4:15 p.m. Heavy bands of rains have been moving through the area, producing up to 4 inches of rain in some areas through midafternoon.

Meteorologists say rainfall totals may be heavy enough to cause streams and creeks to rise above their banks and roads to flood in low-lying areas.

The flood warning covers an area from Baltimore’s northern suburbs south to Prince William County in Virginia. It also includes the District and Baltimore.

The region already has began preparations for the storms, particularly in Old Town Alexandria, a flood-prone area next to the Potomac River. Residents and merchants lined their doors with sandbags as floodwater edged toward storefronts.

In North Carolina, a tornado this morning struck a tiny community, killing at least six persons. A car-crash death near Charlotte also was blamed on the storms.

Dozens of homes were destroyed along the Cape Fear River about 20 miles west of the coastal city of Wilmington, said Gov. Mike Easley’s office.

Another person died earlier in Louisiana.

In Mississippi’s Lamar County, emergency operations center Director James Smith said a possible tornado struck a subdivision outside Sumrall at about 2:50 a.m., damaging or destroying 11 homes.

Mr. Smith said six persons were taken to hospitals from the Sumrall area. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said two other persons were injured in Greene County.

Yesterday, high winds destroyed a Montgomery, Ala., skating rink soon after 31 preschoolers and four adults had fled to the only part of the building that turned out to be safe.

One child had a broken bone and another a cut to the head, but everyone else emerged unharmed from the crumpled wreck of the Fun Zone Skate Center, which doubled as a day care facility.

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