Fast-mov­ing storm downs trees, cuts power in Dentsville

No in­juries re­ported as pos­si­ble fun­nel cloud sighted

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By PAUL LAGASSE pla­gasse@somd­

Res­i­dents of the Den­stville com­mu­nity south­east of La Plata are still clean­ing up from a pow­er­ful storm that swept quickly through the area Mon­day af­ter­noon, dump­ing sev­eral inches of rain, top­pling trees and leav­ing an es­ti­mated 3,600 res­i­dents tem­po­rar­ily with­out power.

All roads in the area are now pass­able, though branches still lit­ter side­walks and lawns, and up­rooted trees dot sev­eral yards in the area be­tween Route 6, Cook­sey Road and Penns Hill Road where the re­ported wind dam­age was the strong­est.

Leo Yates of Penns Hill Road was home when the storm hit around 4:30 p.m. The strong winds knocked a tree down in his front yard, dam­ag­ing his roof.

“There was a lot of rain and the wind was blow­ing like crazy,” Yates said. “It just knocked the tree over and it hit the house.” He said the heavy winds started very quickly and lasted about ten min­utes be­fore stop­ping just as quickly.

Yates’ friend Tom Welch and his son were help­ing cut up the tree af­ter Welch had used a heavy-duty winch on his roll-off dump­ster truck to

lift the tree off the roof.

“More than likely I’ll get some calls from peo­ple to get rid of yard waste as they start clean­ing up,” Welch said.

“Where I was, it was rain­ing so hard, the vis­i­bil­ity was maybe 200 feet,” Welch said. “That was the worst part. So even if there was a fun­nel cloud, I’d never have seen it com­ing.”

Al­though the storm gen­er­ated strong winds, it was not be­lieved to have spawned a full-fledged tor­nado.

“We had some per­son­nel who re­ported see­ing the clouds ro­tat­ing, but noth­ing dropped to the ground,” said Fire Chief Mark Kauf­mann Jr. of Charles County Vol­un­teer Fire and EMS.

Kauf­mann, a Dentsville res­i­dent, hap­pened to be in town with two fire chiefs from Hugh­esville, Chief Scott Her­bert and As­sis­tant Chief Matt Her­bert. Kauf­mann over­saw the county’s re­sponse to the storm, which in­volved co­or­di­nat­ing units from the Charles County Roads Divi­sion, the Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, the Mary­land State Po­lice, SMECO and Ver­i­zon.

“The ini­tial calls that came in were for mul­ti­ple trees down in the area, in­clud­ing wires down and trans­former fires,” Kauf­mann said. “When I was on Charles Street we started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing heavy rain, there was cloud-to-ground light­ning, the wind started pick­ing up, and then we started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lot of flood­ing on the main roads in the Den­stville area.”

Ini­tial sur­veys of the dam­age were ham­pered by the threat of an­other se­vere storm, but once it was clear that the storm would skirt to the south, brush trucks — large pick­ups with a crew of two fit­ted with chain­saws and small fire pumps — fanned out around the com­mu­nity to con­duct ini­tial sur­veys of road con­di­tions for the county and state road crews to tackle.

“The pri­or­ity af­ter the emer­gency re­sponses are over is to make sure the pub­lic is ac­counted for and to make sure that we get the road­ways open,” Kauf­mann said. “Not only does it af­fect the cit­i­zens, it also af­fects our re­sponse if an­other emer­gency hap­pens.”

Kauf­mann de­scribed the dam­age as “wide­spread and spo­radic,” not­ing that “there is a sem­blance of some sort of path.”

The only re­ported storm-re­lated in­jury was an off-duty sher­iff’s deputy who was trans­ported to the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Charles Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter as a pre­cau­tion af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing numb­ness in his arm fol­low­ing a light­ning strike in his back­yard. Sher­iff’s of­fice spokesper­son Diane Richard­son said that the deputy was treated and re­leased sev­eral hours later.

SMECO spokesper­son Tom Den­ni­son said that the storm caused power out­ages for around 4,400 cus­tomers through­out SMECO’s ser­vice area. “In Charles County, ap­prox­i­mately 3,600 cus­tomers lost power, pre­dom­i­nantly in the La Plata, Dentsville and Al­lens Fresh ar­eas,” Den­ni­son said.

Wind gusts up­ward of 60 miles per hour had been re­ported dur­ing the “ex­tremely fast mov­ing and in­tense storm” around Penns Hill Road, Den­ni­son said.

Den­ni­son said that all avail­able crews from SMECO’s cen­tral and south­ern re­gions re­sponded to the cleanup ef­fort. That in­cluded nine ser­vice trucks, 10 line crews, two ap­pa­ra­tus crews with heavy equip­ment for fix­ing poles, and five forester crews to clear downed trees.

“It was a very dam­ag­ing in­ci­dent,” Den­ni­son said. “We were very pleased that we were able to get power back to 99 per­cent of ev­ery­one by the end of the storm.”

Den­ni­son praised the ef­forts of Kauf­mann and the other first re­spon­ders in clear­ing the way for the util­ity crews to re­spond promptly.

“The brush trucks were do­ing a lot of leg­work for us,” Den­ni­son said. “There was a lot of co­op­er­a­tion.”

The Charles County De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works is pro­vid­ing re­moval of logs, branches and leaves through Tues­day, Sept. 5. Home­own­ers are en­cour­aged to bring tree limbs and branches to the side of the road, where they will be re­moved by grap­ple trucks, which use large clamshell-shaped claws to pick up de­bris in bulk.

“They don’t have to cut things small, in fact we would pre­fer them to be long,” said Den­nis Flem­ing, chief of En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­sources in the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works. “Ten to 12 feet long would be ab­so­lutely ac­cept­able.” He noted that the beds of the grap­ple trucks are in ex­cess of 20 feet long.

“Rather than spend­ing a whole lot of time cut­ting things into small pieces, if they want to keep it in long pieces, that’s fine,” Flem­ing said.

“From there, we’re just go­ing to mulch it over in our wood waste pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity over on Piney Church Road, and re­dis­tribute it back to the cit­i­zens.”

Flem­ing said that the de­part­ment’s ini­tial as­sess­ment of the af­fected area sug­gests be­tween 50 and 100 res­i­dences sus­tained dam­age to trees.

To ar­range for the pickup ser­vice, call the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works at 301-932-3440.


Above, the roof of Leo Yates’ house on Penns Hill Road was dam­aged by a tree that was blown down in an “ex­tremely fast mov­ing and in­tense storm” on Mon­day af­ter­noon. Be­low, up­rooted trees and fallen limbs are a com­mon sight around Cook­sey and Penns Hill Roads in Dentsville fol­low­ing Mon­day af­ter­noon’s storm, dur­ing which sev­eral peo­ple re­ported see­ing ro­tat­ing clouds.

A closeup of the dam­age to Leo Yates’ roof. An es­ti­mated 50 to 100 res­i­dences around Dentsville are be­lieved to have ex­pe­ri­enced some sort of dam­age to trees as a re­sult of heavy winds and rains on Mon­day af­ter­noon.


Tom Welch of Welch & Son LLC, a roll-off dump­ster ser­vice, used his truck’s hoist to lift a fallen tree from the roof of Penns Hill Road res­i­dent Leo Yates fol­low­ing Mon­day’s fast-mov­ing storm that top­pled trees and brought down power lines around Dentsville.

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