Quick, Violent Storm Stuns Bladensburg
Residents describe a tornado-like storm that tore roofs off houses, caused minor injuries.
A sudden storm that officials called a "microburst" -- a violent downward draft of air -- swept through a Bladensburg neighborhood last night, snapping trees, blowing roofs off buildings and leaving residents in the dark and seeking shelter.
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Residents were told they could go to Bladensburg High School at 4200 57th Ave. for shelter at 2 p.m. Saturday, if they were displaced by the storm. Transportation was being provided by Prince George's County to take those who sought shelter.
Officials said the storm hit at 8:07 p.m., damaging some 15 apartment buildings and a single-family home on Newton Street between 52nd and 55th avenues. Damage from the storm was also seen along Quincy Street.
Residents said the storm was brief but "rough."
"It was terrible," said Maurice Howard, 31, who lives on Newton Street. "I've never seen anything like this."
He said there was thunder, golf ball-sized hail and high winds that lifted a child out of his shoes while he was outside playing. A neighbor rushed out and grabbed the child, who was unhurt, he said.
Officials said there were a few minor injuries but no details were available.
Debris was strewn across Newton Street, including broken glass, tree limbs, insulation and household goods such as paper plates and soda cans.
Dozens of trees were snapped in half, some falling on buildings and car roofs. One car had a section of a roof still sitting on it Saturday evening.
Police shut down roads in the area and were directing traffic around the damage.
Sarina Howard, 34, assistant property manager of Quincy Manor Apartments, said Prince George's County workers were in the area Saturday morning to help with cleanup.
She said she was told by Pepco that residents would be without power until mid-morning Monday.
County Executive Rushern Baker came through the neighborhood and talked to residents, she added. Del. Jolene Ivey (D- Prince George's) also stopped by the neighborhood and handed out popicles to residents, hoping to help them cool off.
About 75 people from Pepco and county disaster recovery offices helped clean up the debris and worked to fix the damage to buildings, while the American Red Cross handed out supplies like water and snacks to displaced residents.
Gary Garcia, 21, of the 5000 block of Quincy Street, said the storm shook him out of bed Friday evening.
"The hail hitting the window woke me up," Garcia said. His family sought shelter in their first-floor living room.
Garcia's deck was damaged during the storm when a tree toppled over and broke it. The Garcia family's fence was also damaged, but their house was spared. He said the worst of the storm lasted somewhere between seven to 10 minutes. Power was retuned to residents of Quincy Street Saturday afternoon.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman with the county executive's office, said the shelter will be open for residents until a long-term solution is identified.
More than sixty residents sought shelter at Bladensburg High School Saturday, Peterson said. The American Red Cross said it is expecting to serve nearly 300 residents. The shelter will provide food, showers and cots for residents.
The county also bussed some of the displaced residents to a nearby Wal-Mart to get supplies for their stay, he added.
"A lot of people want to get back into their homes ASAP," Peterson said. "We're trying to figure out how we can do that."
Residents looking for information related to the storm, should go over to the high school where county officials will be available to answer questions.
Anyone who needs assistance can call the Prince George's County Emergency Operations Center at 301 583-2230.
Add your photos from the storm or tell us what happened Friday night in the comments.