Clean up, recovery underway following tornado
STEVENSVILLE — A waterspout turned tornado struck Kent Island early Monday, July 23, morning, July 12, damaging communities and leaving more than 9,000 homes and businesses without power in its aftermath.
The EF-2 tornado touched down at 1:29 a.m. in the Bay City community, according to the National Weather Service, causing significant structural damage and ripping apart trees, telephone poles and everything else that was in the path of the four-minute wrecking ball of chaos.
The storm damaged homes, cars, boats and personal belongings as tree limbs, entire trees and power lines went down from the excessive wind and rain. More than 20 fire departments from surrounding counties assisted the situation, responding to calls throughout Monday.
For coordination and response, a mobile emergency operations center was set up at Mowbray Park near the Matapeake school complex that included Maryland State Police, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, the county’s emergency services department and all the public safety response teams.
The tornado was 150 yards yard with wind speeds up to 125 mph, and it traveled a distance of about two miles, NWS reported. Only one individual was transported to the emergency center for injuries.
Emergency Services Director Scott Haas told county commissioners Tuesday night the man, whose house was destroyed, sustained a
minor puncture wound to his back, but he was released later Monday from the University of Maryland Emergency Center in Queenstown.
Haas, who viewed the tornado damage from a helicopter on Monday with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, said, “It was almost like somebody steered it (the tornado) through the neighborhood away from homes. It’s unbelievable, the path it took.”
Due to the severity of the storm and the destruction it caused, Haas said it was amazing only one person sustained an injur y.
“We were very lucky, very fortunate,” Haas said at a Tuesday morning press conference.
Rutherford said there was “extensive damage” and that homeowners he had spoken to were scared during the storm but felt fortunate there were no major injuries.
“It’s devastating in terms of just seeing the power, the force, that came through in this storm,” Rutherford said.”
Rutherford said people were appreciative of the first responders, both local and from surrounding counties, who came to assist.
“All of the communities will come together, that’s what Marylanders do,” he said.
Doing a similar tour through Bay City and Ellendale communities on Tuesday, Comptroller Peter Franchot spoke with homeowners dealing with damaged properties to hear firsthand experiences of the devastation. Franchot’s office announced a temporary waiver on motor fuel tax payments for companies affected by the storm on Tuesday.
“Our primary focus is ensuring that businesses and individuals impacted by this storm can focus on cleaning up and rebuilding their community, read a statement from Franchot’s office. “My office stands ready to assist and to ease any burdens we can.”
Within 24 hours of the storm, Delmarva Power Company had restored power to all but 38 customers, 15 of which Delmarva Vice President John Allen said would not be able to because the locations are “uninhabitable.” By 5:27 p.m. Tuesday, Delmarva spokesman Marcus Beal said power had been restored to all its customers still able to receive it.
Though power is back to the area, many homes and businesses are still in disarray. Haas said all of the hotels Monday night were fully booked and that five people stayed that night in the Centreville Middle School emergency shelter, which closed at noon Tuesday.
Allen thanked Delmarva customers and the community for their patience and thanked all of its emergency service partners for the smooth work that had taken place.
“The value of those relationships is really tested when you have a situation like this,” Allen said.
County Commissioner Jim Moran, who was at the command center Monday morning, said the county’s response was “flawless” and that the communication between all the different agencies went well.
Commissioners Mark Anderson, Steve Wilson, Jack Wilson and Moran all thanked the first responders and the community for coming together and handling the situation smoothly.
Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department First Assistant Chief Tracy Schulz said the first call they received after the tornado hit was for a house struck by lightning. While responding, the fire department encountered torrential rain, wind and debris all over the place, he said, and part of U.S. 50 west was closed due to a downed tree as well as part of Route 8.
Schulz said crews had a hard time getting into the community due to downed electric lines and tree limbs all throughout the neighborhood. He said they didn’t put out any fires but did contain multiple gas leaks, mainly from propane tanks that were overturned or that broke loose from houses. He said crews secured them quickly to prevent potential fires.
“We’ve had a couple storms before and they’ve been straight-line winds, but this one here is a whole different storm,” Schulz said. He said the debris field and the amount of destruction “was just devastating.”
Jason Anthony with Grasonville Volunteer Fire Department said the scene was “chaotic.” Anthony said it was “definitely a unique scene, something you don’t see often.”
Haas said the storm began in the Chesapeake Bay between Annapolis and Stevensville as a waterspout that turned into a tornado in the middle of Bay City community. The storm, he said, took a north east pattern up Route 8 and into the Ellendale town homes before passing through Thompson Creek Road and the shopping center. The storm then “bounced back and forth” across U.S. 50, through the cemetery between U.S. 50 and Route 18 and up to Queenstown before it broke up.
While along Route 18, Haas said the tornado knocked out all the power lines.
The NWS report said the storm was on the ground for four minutes.
Speaking to the commissioners Tuesday night, Haas said it could be two years until the area fully recovers from the storm’s aftermath.
Part of that recovery began Tuesday as three damage assessment teams went through communities to come up with figures to see if the county could qualify for disaster relief funds.
Haas said early damage assessment numbers show 155 properties were impacted by the storm and that 10 homes were totally destroyed. He said as many as five residents may require housing assistance.
In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen said if the state and county officials deem it appropriate, they would give strong support for a “federal disaster declaration to make federal funding available for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the storm.”
A disaster assistance center has been set up at Matapeake Elementary School, 651 Romancoke Road, Stevensville, and will be open today, July 28, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, July 30, noon to 5 p.m.; and Monday through Thursday, July 31Aug. 4, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The center will have Maryland Insurance Agency representatives along with county and state agencies to offer eligible individuals information. There will also be several insurance companies on site to offer assistance with claims.
People seeking assistance are asked to bring personal information and documents as well as a list of damage and what assistance is needed.
Due to the amount of debris, the county’s Department of Public Works said Batts Neck and Grasonville Transfer Stations would have extended hours throughout the week. Both transfer stations are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday and then will go back to regular hours next week..
Residents and their contractors can dispose of yard waste storm debris, such as downed trees, brush, stumps and chipped yard waste at no fee or need for ticket use. Residents looking to get rid of storm related construction and demolition debris can also drop those off at the two transfer stations with no volume restrictions but must use their ticket book for disposal.
Other disposal options include R.B. Baker and Sons Inc. – Rubble Landfill, at 501 4-H Park Road, Queenstown. R.B. Baker and Sons accepts both residential and commercial loads Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. For information contact 410-8278831.
Kent Island United Methodist Church, located at 2739 Cox Neck Road, Chester, is accepting donations for victims of Monday’s tornado. Donations, excluding clothing, will be accepted Monday through Friday at the church office building. For more information, contact Pastor Amor Woolsey at 410-6435361 or email amor@kiumc. org.
International Fuel Tax Agreement licensees in the county now have until August 31 to file their second quarter IFTA tax returns. An extension was also granted until August 31 for Maryland Motor Fuel license holders to file their tax returns.
For more information about the temporary waiver from the comptroller’s office, call Nathan Essey at 410-2607498 or email nessey@comp. state.md.us.
To sign up for Citizen Alerts run through the county government, visit www. qac.org and click the “Citizen Alert” button to sign up for text and email emergency notifications. Follow the Department of Emergency Services on Facebook and Twitter for further information.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford views damaged homes in the Bay City community on Kent Island on Monday, July 24.
Clean up begins of a giant oak tree that stood alongside Route 8, near the Farmer John’s produce stand that was destroyed by a tornado early Monday morning, July 24, in Stevensville. According to Sean Pelan’s calculations, the tree was 450 years old.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, foreground, tours the Ellendale community, which sustained heavy damage during Monday’s tornado. With him are Emergency Services Director Scott Haas and Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann.
This boat ended up upside down on the pier.