College Park Tornado
Quiet tonight with lows in the upper 40s to upper 50s but we were tracking severe weather twenty years ago. On this date in 2001 a strong cold front spawned several tornadoes in the Metro area. Shortly after 3PM on September twenty fourth a tornado touched down in Culpeper County in Rixeyville. The small tornado damaged a house in Rixeyville and then went on to strike five miles southwest of Warrenton ripping several roofs off and blowing them onto route 211 shortly after three thirty. The tornado then damaged the roof of a restaurant in Franconia in Fairfax County. The Virginia tornado was later determined to be an F4 with winds over 207 mph.
Shortly after 5PM a funnel cloud was sighted near the Fourteenth Street Bridge. At 5:24PM an F3 tornado touched down in College Park. The College Park tornado had winds near 200 mph making it a strong F3 but would now be a EF 5 on the new scale. There were two fatalities in College Park. The two daughters of Pat Marlatt, a professor at the university, drove away in their car unaware of the eminent danger. The twister picked the car up and slammed it to the ground several hundred yards away in the woods. The MFRI building, next to the Performing Arts Center was destroyed. Everyone in the MFRI building survived. One student was thrown some eighty yards and survived. One woman grabbed a table leg and the carpet on the concrete floor to keep from being blown away and survived. It is amazing that everyone survived considering the building was simply flattened. Little did we know that this tornado was just a harbinger of a stronger tornado that would hit La Plata next spring in April of 2002.