Tornadoes, heavy rains leave US mid-Atlantic battered


Sun Jun 3, 2012 1:13am EDT

(Reuters) – High winds, heavy rains and six tornadoes have descended on the mid-Atlantic region, causing at least one serious injury but no deaths and damaging homes, businesses and boats, officials said on Saturday.

The violent storms that struck Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia on Friday collapsed a fabric dome near Pittsburgh, stranded motorists on flooded roads, and ruined homes and boats.

The National Weather Service said in a post on Twitter late on Saturday that six tornadoes had been confirmed as part of the weather outbreak. No other details were immediately available.

One man in Bel Air, Maryland, near Baltimore suffered broken bones when the concrete block wall of his automotive garage business collapsed on him during the storm. Another man inside the garage had minor injuries, Edward Hopkins of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency said.

An alert employee evacuated 11 others from the fabric golf dome at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania a minute before winds caused it to collapse on Friday. They escaped unhurt, the university said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of people lost power in Washington and its Maryland suburbs on Friday, but outages were down to around 250 customers by Saturday, said Myra Oppel, a spokeswoman for Potomac Electric Power Company.

“It was really nasty weather,” Oppel said in a telephone interview. “I’ve never heard so many tornado warnings.”

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company also had tens of thousands of customers lose power, though all but roughly 2,500 customers had their power restored, the company said on its website.

Flash flooding along the Interstate 95 corridor inundated roads and stranded motorists, some of whom had to be rescued, said Howard Silverman of the National Weather Service in Maryland.

Experts were out determining whether tornadoes had caused the damage, Silverman said.

Witnesses said it was definitely a tornado that struck Hampton, Virginia, where 100 homes, three businesses and some yachts sustained damage.

The damage in Hampton, a city of 150,000, was estimated at $4.3 million, city spokeswoman Robin McCormick said.

“There are trees on roofs, and tarps, it’s really a mess,” McCormick said. Boats in a parking lot were tossed off their trailers, she said.

Residents were being kept out of two hard-hit neighborhoods where crews were replacing downed power poles and clearing debris that blocked roads.

Despite the storm, Hampton held its annual “Blackbeard Pirate Festival” for thousands of visitors on Saturday, McCormick said.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune)

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