La Plata survivors remember historic twister

The 2002 La Plata twister had winds in excess of 200 mph and was on the ground for 24 miles in Charles County. Photo: NWS

Some Marylanders know all to well what the people of Moore, Okla. are going through. In 2002, a deadly F-4 tornado swept through La Plata, Md. The pictures of that devastation look eerily similar to what we're now seeing in Oklahoma.

Sharon Kalaha watches news of the Oklahoma tornado with tears in her eyes.

“I wish I could go to them and say it’ll be OK,” she says.

Lucy Thompson says her heart aches when she sees video of the damage.

“Because we know exactly what they’re going through,” Thompson says.

The neighbors understand the plight of the Oklahoma victims better than most. They are survivors of the historic April 2002 F-4 tornado, which tore through La Plata and their homes.

“You know, probably was 20 seconds, but that’s all it took and everything was gone,” Kalaha says.

Thompson nearly lost her husband as her roof tore off.

“The wind picked him up, carried him down the hall, back up the hall, and slammed into the floor in the dining room,” she says.

The La Plata twister with winds in excess of 200 mph was on the ground for 24 miles in Charles County, killing three people and doing more than $100 million in damage. It crashed through the heart of the town, flattening everything in its path. Most say the town center has been rebuilt better than before.

With a lot of help, most of the homes in the Quailwood neighborhood were restored within months.

“The Red Cross was amazing to us,” Kalaha says. “They came, brought food, or somebody would come by with just water.”

You can still see damaged trees and an empty lot where a home once stood. Thompson says the Oklahoma survivors are in for a long struggle.

“I’m not whole yet, and it’s been over 10 years,” she says.

Photos of the La Plata tornado