Remembering La Plata: 15 years since deadly twister struck

Fifteen years ago, a devastating tornado with winds topping 207 miles per hour ripped through the Charles County town of La Plata toppling buildings, killing three people and injuring more than 100 others.

WASHINGTON – Fifteen years ago a crushing tornado ripped through the Charles County town of La Plata toppling buildings, killing two people and injuring many more.

The twister’s winds reached an estimated 207 miles per hour or more, rating it an F4, the second most damaging range of tornadoes, on the now obsolete Fujita scale.

A third person was killed in Calvert County and the storm continued its destruction on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay in Eastern Maryland. More than 100 people total were injured from the storm.

WTOP’s Dave Dildine visited the town the day the tornado struck on April 28, 2002. The scene is something he will never forget.

“Large portions of houses (were) completely lifted up and transported several hundred feet down the road,” Dildine said.

Another sight struck him.

“The number of vehicles that were picked up from parking lots here, there, (and) driveways, flipped, tossed, turned.”

The storm’s path was clear, he said.

“It was as if a bulldozer came through the center of La Plata and just carved a swath straight through the center of town, leaving nothing in its path,” Dildine said.

Dildine said that, thankfully, storms like that are hardly ever seen in the D.C. region.

“The magnitude of the damage is something that no one in this region has seen for decades, if not longer. It is very rare for a tornado of that intensity to strike anywhere east of the Mississippi River,” he said.

People took to a La Plata Tornado Facebook page to upload photos and share memories of the destruction.

Ten years after the storm, the town put together an exhibit with before and after photos, showing how La Plata had recovered.

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