A massive F4 tornado tore through the Town of La Plata on Sunday, April 28, 2002 killing three people and injuring over 100. In the aftermath of the storm, over $115,000,000 in damage was done and 65% of the buildings in downtown La Plata were damaged. It was a night that will never be forgotten in Charles County.
Ten years later, La Plata has rebuilt but it has not forgotten. On Saturday, April 28, 2012, the Town of La Plata will hold a day of festivities to celebrate the rebirth of the town on the 10th anniversary of the tragic storms, which includes live music, face painting, refreshments and several other family friendly events.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, the commissioners approved a motion to involve the commissioners in the ceremonies. A 10-year proclamation could be issued to Town of La Plata Mayor Roy Hale during the April 24th commissioners meeting and at least two of the commissioners could participate in the ceremonies on April 28th.
“That was the day for La Plata,” Town of La Plata Mayor Roy Hale said. “It was the second tornado in 100 years that went through our town and devastated about 65 percent of the downtown area. On the 28th of April 2012, we’re going to celebrate the rebirth of the town and everything that has happened in those short ten years and to show our support to the people and all the organizations, government and private, that actually contributed a tremendous amount to the rebirth of La Plata. We want to recognize what has happened and celebrate all the new growth in town and everything that has occurred in those ten years.
“To do that, we’re going to have a major celebration in Downtown La Plata on April 28th with multiple events. We’ll have walking tours of downtown with signs on those establishments that show the destruction that occurred on those sites and people can look at the building that’s now replaced that. We’re going to have music, multiple events for children, food, just a tremendous day all day long to celebrate what has occurred in La Plata. We’re hoping for excellent weather, we ordered a good day and we’re hoping everyone can come out and share the day with their neighbors and friends and everyone else who lives in this town. Many of our neighbors have contributed a tremendous amount to what has occurred.”
The other tornado that hit La Plata that Mayor Hale referenced was a tornado that tore through the town on November 9, 1926. The 1926 tornado killed 16 people, 13 of which at La Plata Elementary School, which was destroyed in the tornado that also ranked as an F4 tornado on the Fujita scale. Hale also recalled where he was on that Sunday night when the tornado moved through in an interview with The Bay Net.
“I remember that day very clearly,” Hale said. “I had just mowed the backyard because it was Sunday evening and it rained earlier but it cleared up and the sun came out. I was outside and did not hear the tornado warnings and my wife came out and told me that a tornado was in the area so I put my lawnmower away and at that time, it went through. Fortunately, where I live in Clark’s Run, I didn’t have any damage at all for our house unlike many others in the area.”
If you ask any long time resident of Charles County where they were on April 28, 2002, you could bet they would remember. For La Plata, it was a day that will never be forgotten. In the days and weeks following the tornado, t-shirts were sold that read “La Plata, twisted but not broken”. On the 10th anniversary, residents will see that the town’s spirit was not broken even though many structures were, and they will celebrate the recovery that has taken place.