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A violent thunderstorm predicted for Thursday afternoon arrived during the commute home for thousands of Southern Marylanders, including St. Mary’s motorists caught in traffic from falling trees as more than 12,000 power outages were reported in the county.

The National Weather Service got calls from trained spotters that a rotation had been spotted at about 3:45 p.m. in the skies above the intersection of Route 235 and Hermanville Road, south of Lexington Park. St. Mary’s 911 dispatchers received calls about utility poles falling in the Compton area and on Lawrence Avenue in Leonardtown, along with trees down on Route 5 in Leonardtown and Redgate, on Fairgrounds Road and across St. Andrew’s Church Road in California.

Michael Martirano, superintendent of St. Mary’s public schools, reported that about 50 people showed up at Great Mills High School that afternoon, seeking shelter. They were let in, he wrote, but they were told by an officer to go home once the immediate storm passed.

“We did see what looked like a funnel cloud moving south of Leonardtown,” the superintendent said by email just after the storm passed. “The storm was quick and violent.”

Several schools lost power during the afternoon storm, according to Martirano. Thursday marked the last day of school for St. Mary’s public schools, and because of early dismissals all buses were finished their routes by the time the storm blew through after 3 p.m.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s outage map showed 12,554 customers out of power in St. Mary’s at about 4:30 p.m., in areas such as Leonardtown, Great Mills, California and Hollywood.

Volunteer firefighters were cutting up the tree on St. Andrew’s Church Road as Laurence and Avis Smith of Lusby sat in a Hyundai Genesis, stuck in the muddy tracks of other vehicles that successfully went through a yard to bypass the blocked roadway.

“I was following the flow of traffic,” Laurence Smith said. “I’m the guy who got stuck.”

Staff writers Jesse Yeatman and Jason Babcock also contributed to this report.