2001 Tornado Footage

In “Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News,” the current exhibit at the Laurel Museum,  there’s a panel in the Disasters section that covers the tornado that wreaked havoc through the Fairlawn neighborhood and beyond in September 2001—less than two weeks after 9/11. Remember, this was a town already on edge after learning that some of the hijackers had stayed in Laurel… and then a tornado literally blew through.

The panel features the cover of that week’s Laurel Leader, which included a stunning image of the funnel cloud moving just beyond Laurel Shopping Center and the Middletowne Apartments high rise.


The image wasn’t a photograph, but a video still from footage shot by Brian Alexander—shot from the fourth floor office of the former American National Bank building, which was demolished in 2012 to make way for a new Walgreens.

(Photo: Richard Friend, 2012)

(Photo: Richard Friend, 2012)

Until today, that was the only image I’d ever seen of the tornado itself, although there are plenty of photos of its aftermath. The tornado briefly reached the F3 category, with winds up to 160 mph. Laurel was fortunate that there were no casualties that day, although there was plenty of damage—portions of roofs were blown off Laurel High School, and the historic Harrison-Beard Building at Montgomery and Ninth Streets was nearly lost; one house along the 1000 block of Tenth Street was completely destroyed.

As yet another September is upon us, it’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since this happened. And it all came back vividly today when Steve Jones sent me the following footage—these appear to be the actual Brian Alexander video clips themselves, as well as some bonus footage of the aftermath.

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6 thoughts on “2001 Tornado Footage

  1. Heidi says:

    Where is the acknowledgement for my home that was destroyed nearly to the foundation?
    9419 riverbrink Ct

    • Richard Friend says:

      Hi Heidi,
      Sorry—I only mentioned the damage that downtown Laurel incurred, since that’s what was shown in the videos. But yes, North Laurel was also severely hit. Here’s a link to a Baltimore Sun article that specifically mentions your house: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/weather/weather-blog/bal-te.md.laurel26sep26-story.html

      I also didn’t originally link to it because the article is a bit misleading in hindsight—it opens with news of the impending demolition of the Harrison-Beard Building, but it would actually be saved and is still standing today.

  2. Jane Sinclair says:

    I seem to recall a photo..perhaps on the cover of the Washington Post that showed the tornado lumbering toward the iconic Giant Food sign….anyone else remember this??

  3. This is very cool to see after so long. I was working at Food Lion on Sandy Spring Rd and watched it head towards the store. I’d just that summer officially joined the Rescue Squad and started working the the store. We got all the staff and customers to the back of the store away from the windows, and I went out to the parking lot to get an older couple out of their car into the building as it came directly towards us. My moms house a block away on Nichols Dr. had damage to the siding; we got lucky on our end of the street.

  4. Lisa Olsen says:

    I lived at 934 Park Ave right across from food lion. It took the tree in my front yard and dropped in on my new truck, took off a load of shingles, siding and turn my daughters swing set in to a pile of junk. Also took dropped a tree over the chain link fence in the back yard with branches through great room windows. Total of fifty thousand in damages. But we never lost electric as the whole neighborhood did.

  5. Adrian Limmen says:

    I can hear my dad in the last video talking about the poor magnolia that got hit, We lived on Marton Street and My dad was home.

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