High winds snap util­ity poles, de­stroy barn

Record Observer - - News - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

CHURCH HILL — Not a tor­nado, but straight lines winds were to blame for the dev­as­ta­tion in Roberts Sta­tion Fri­day night, May 19, said David Rivett, as­sis­tant chief, Queen Anne’s County De­part­ment of Emer­gency Ser vices, Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Di­vi­sion.

The storm hit in the area of Roberts Sta­tion Road about 8:30 p.m., bring­ing hail, rain and the de­struc­tive winds. Thir­teen util­ity poles were bro­ken off, a barn de­stroyed, and Route 313 was closed for about eight hours, Rivett said.

Af­ter look­ing at the de­bris pat­terns and check­ing records from area tow­ers, Na­tional Weather Ser­vice of­fi­cials at Mt. Holly de­ter­mined straight winds, ex­ceed­ing 110 mph, struck the area, Rivett said.

“The barn just dis­in­te­grated. The poles were snapped mid-shaft,” he said.

Church Hill Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment re­sponded to wires down on Route 19 near Rab­bit Hill Road and Bri­er­ley Mill Road at 8:47 p.m.

The ini­tial dis­patch was for one ve­hi­cle with wires on top of it, said Church Hill VFD 1st As­sis­tant Chief Steve Hur­lock. “Then en­route we were told it was mul­ti­ple ve­hi­cles and mul­ti­ple poles.”

When fire­fight­ers ar­rived they could see at least four poles down, still with live wires on them, and a line of cars with their flash­ers on, he said.

In all, there were 10 ve­hi­cles amongst the poles and wires, Hur­lock said, but only the first one in line — a truck pulling a trailer — ac­tu­ally had wires on top of it.

The last car in line, near Big Woods Road, was trapped be­tween two poles and wires were up against the driver’s side door, Hur­lock said. “She couldn’t go for­ward or back­ward.”

Oth­ers were mixed in be­tween the poles, some strad­dling wires.

“They were all lucky enough to be in be­tween the poles some­how,” he said.

Hur­lock praised the mo­torists caught in the wires and the dis­patch­ers who took their calls.

It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily that peo­ple were trapped, just that it was dan­ger­ous to get out be­cause there were live wires on the ground and all around the cars, he said.

“Ev­ery­one was very co­op­er­a­tive. They did a very good job of lis­ten­ing to au­thor­i­ties,” Hur­lock said. Ev­ery­one was told, “Don’t get out of your ve­hi­cles.” No one was in­jured.

He called for Del­marva Power to re­spond and shut down power so the wires could be moved and the cars ex­tri­cated. Sudlersville Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany, Mar yland State Po­lice and county paramedics also re­sponded to as­sist.

Del­marva Power shut down elec­tric­ity to the area at the sub­sta­tion on Route 19, then stayed on the scene to help with the cars, Hur­lock said.

The last ve­hi­cle to be cleared was the truck with the wires on top of it. It was be­tween two poles and the wires were still at­tached, cre­at­ing too much ten­sion for it to move. Del­marva Power brought in a truck to lift one of the poles, so the truck could get out, he said.

Get­ting all the ve­hi­cles clear took be­tween two and two and a half hours, Hur­lock said.

While the fire­fight­ers were out help­ing mo­torists, they no­ticed pieces of man­gled tin and sheet metal in the road and field next to it. The de­bris was what was left of David and Sharon Clark’s barn, a metal pole build­ing on their farm, where they were stor­ing a com­bine.

The com­bine had not moved, but the build­ing around it was gone, Hur­lock said.

“It was taken right off the foun­da­tion and just shred­ded,” Rivett said.

The silo next to the barn was un­touched and the farm­house only miss­ing a cou­ple pieces of siding, Rivett said.

Route 19 was shut down at Route 301 and Route 313, the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion set up de­tours while emer­gency work was go­ing on. Del­marva Power pulled crews in from Sal­is­bury and Centreville to re­place the util­ity poles and worked for hours into the morn­ing to re­store power to the area, Hur­lock said.

Peo­ple nearby thought a tor­nado had struck, but there was no ro­ta­tion in the de­bris pat­tern, Rivett said.

“… it was most sur­real thing we’ve ever seen, near zero vis­i­bil­ity, fierce high winds and fly­ing de­bris, saw two larger than road width “white things” roll across road in front of us, thank­ful no spark­ing lines or fire and no in­juries!!” Steve Dono­van wrote on CHVFD’s Face­book page.

“I live just right around the road from there. That was in­sane. It’s just about a mile from us,” said Cricket Wil­liams, who lives on Mer­rick Cor­ner Road. The Clarks’ daugh­ter was at Wil­liams’ house and talk­ing on the phone with her mom dur­ing the storm. “There was noth­ing hap­pen­ing here.

“It ap­peared to be very iso­lated to just the stretch of Route 19 be­tween Bri­er­ley Mill Road and Big Woods Road. So happy it didn’t come across the field.”

Just down the road, Wil­liams said her mom got large hail. And her friend Gina Lan­caster, who lives on Rab­bit Hill Road, sort of be­hind the Clark farm, said her hay hut got picked up and dropped on top of a tree, Wil­liams said.

Wil­liams said she and her hus­band rode around the next morn­ing about 6:30 to look at things. The pic­tures re­ally didn’t do the de­struc­tion justice, she said.

They were im­pressed by Del­marva Power. “We were sur­prised they had them (the re­place­ment poles) up as fast as they did,” She said.

The event was iso­lated to a small area. The bulk of the dev­as­ta­tion took place in a three-quar­ter mile span, Hur­lock said.

Rivett said Queen Anne’s County ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar event with straight line winds at the Rhodes farm on Brick School­house Road in Centreville last year, where the storm cut a chicken house in half — and it was the mid­dle house of three.

Af­ter­ward, “you could look up in the trees and see chick­ens and every­thing,” he said.


Fri­day’s storm de­stroyed a barn on David and Sharon Clark’s farm.



Ten ve­hi­cles were stranded Fri­day night, May 19, when a storm knocked down util­ity poles on Roberts Sta­tion Road. Church Hill Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment and Del­marva Power re­sponded.

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