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Tornado Tore Through College Park a Decade Ago

Two University of Maryland students — sisters — died in the disaster.

It was 10 years ago this past Saturday that a tornado ripped through College Park and surrounding areas, killing two University of Maryland students – sisters who were visiting their father who worked on campus.

As the storm clouds approached late afternoon, Sept. 24, 2001, Patrick Marlatt told his two daughters to get into the car and leave.

“It just looked like a storm to us,” he told WUSA9.

They were Colleen Patricia Marlatt, 23, and Erin Patricia Marlatt, 20.

Their car was tossed hundreds of yards and over an eight-story dormitory, and discovered in the woods across University Boulevard, according to The Washington Post.

The campus was still grieving the impact from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, The Diamondback reported.

The Numbers

The tornado that tore through College Park was the third and strongest tornado in a storm system that passed through parts of Virginia and the District of Columbia.

After leaving Washington, the tornado touched down again southwest of campus, first causing heavy damage at Adelphi Road and University Boulevard. The twister entered the University of Maryland at 5:22 p.m., intensifying from an F1 tornado to an F3, with wind speeds maxing out between 175 and 200 miles per hour.

It moved northeast through campus, and eased to an F2 twister with wind speeds reaching 150 miles per hour. It’s believed that the twister had two vortices as it passed through campus.

According to The Washington Post, the tornado struck particularly hard at Metzerott Road and University Boulevard, as well as the College Park Marketplace on Cherry Hill Road.

Ten trailers being used as temporary facilities for fire and rescue personnel were destroyed.

The tornado moved on to Beltsville and Laurel, carving a 17.5-mile path, reaching 200 yards wide at some points.

It was estimated that the tornado caused $15 million worth of damage to the university alone; $16 million to the county; and $73 million in all. More than 50 people were injured. Among them was Marlatt, the father of the two daughters who died, USA Today reported.

USA Today also reported that one 78-year-old volunteer firefighter collapsed after helping clean the damage on campus.

Today

You can still see remnants of the destruction along the Paint Branch Trail, between campus and Cherry Hill Road. See the accompanying photo.

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