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A tornado in Maryland blows down trees and traps residents

Multiple tornadoes ripped through Maryland on Wednesday in what may be one of the most significant tornadoes to hit the area in years.

Trees were uprooted and crashed into houses as high winds, thunderstorms and heavy rain hit the area. Five people trapped in a Gaithersburg home were hospitalized, including one with traumatic injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

A supercell that developed in Loudoun County may have first produced a tornado north of Leesburg around 6:45 p.m. It then produced multiple tornadoes that tore through areas near Darnestown, Poolesville, Gaithersburg, Olney, Columbia and Baltimore.

It will take at least until Thursday afternoon for the National Weather Service to assess damage, determine the number of tornadoes that touched down and assign ratings.

Video footage from Montgomery County showed a large, cone-shaped funnel near Darnestown and Poolesville — typical of those rated at least a 2 out of 5, which are much more common in the Plains and South than in the Mid-Atlantic. The last tornado with a rating of at least a 2 to hit Maryland in June was in 1996.

“I’ve lived here 75 years and we’ve never experienced anything like this in Gaithersburg,” said Jacqueline Harding, who went to the grocery store Wednesday evening and took shelter in a nearby home as the tornado approached. “Nothing that would knock down trees and stuff. Not so bad,” she said.

Gaithersburg’s Olde Towne neighborhood suffered the heaviest damage. In addition to the home on Dogwood Drive that hospitalized five people, authorities said, two other homes were damaged by fallen trees, but residents escaped without injury.

Photos from the area showed residents gathering in streets covered with tree branches and, in some cases, giant logs.

“It happened very quickly, I think in those moments you don’t really understand what’s happening until it’s over,” said Mariela Cabanillas, a Gaithersburg resident who took shelter in a basement as the tornado raged through. “The wind was super strong and the rain was very hard.”

Some residents were temporarily without power when the storm downed power lines. Officials worked through the night to assess damage and remove debris from roads.

Storms may hit the DC area again on Thursday, but tornado risk is low.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center on Thursday placed the Washington region in a Level 1 risk area for severe storms, the lowest of five levels. Downpours, lightning and strong straight-line wind gusts are possible, but there should be much less spin available for storms that form.

Katie Shepherd, Clarence Williams, Jessica Koscielniak, Daniel Wu and Jonathan Edwards contributed to this report.