Tor­nado cleanup ef­forts con­tinue

Record Observer - - Front Page - news­room@recor­dob­server.com By MIKE DAVIS & DOUG BISHOP

STEVENSVILLE — Scott Haas, direc­tor of emer­gency ser­vices, told the Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers July 25 that it might be two years un­til the tor­nado rav­ished ar­eas of Kent Is­land are fully re­cov­ered. One week af­ter the EF-2 tor­nado ripped roofs off houses, threw tree limbs into homes and bent power poles, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions and groups of com­mu­nity mem­bers have be­gun the long process of restor­ing the area to its for­mer glory.

Cit­i­zens of the com­mu­ni­ties most af­fected by the July 24 tor­nado on Kent Is­land have been unan­i­mous in their praise for the emer­gency re­sponse ef­fort.

On Mon­day morn­ing, July 31, em­ploy­ees from the Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Com­mu­nity Ini­tia­tives teamed up with the county’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works and lo­cal vol­un­teers to aid res­i­dents in Bay City and the sur­round­ing area in clear­ing de­bris and com­plet­ing spe­cific cleanups the home­owner needed fin­ished.

Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works Direc­tor Todd Mohn said crews would be driv­ing around the area tak­ing de­stroyed items and de­bris for the next two weeks. Home­own­ers can bring their items out to the edge of their road and county crews will come by and re­move them.

Mohn said Jim DiDonato’s con­struc­tion com­pany do­nated mul­ti­ple Dump­sters to load with de­bris, which helped clean up a few ex­tra prop­er­ties on Mon­day.

Mohn, who was on site the morn­ing the tor­nado passed through, said “it’s a big dif­fer­ence in there now” in terms of neigh­bor­hood de­struc­tion. The past week, Mohn said county work­ers and vol­un­teers had made “out­stand­ing progress.”

Tales of neigh­bors help­ing neigh­bors abound. Bay City res­i­dent Louis Salano, 81, sur­vived hav­ing the en­tire roof taken off his home while he was sleep­ing.

“I ac­tu­ally had just fallen asleep at about 12:45 a.m., be­fore the tor­nado hit. When the roof came off my house, the ceil­ing came down on me while I was ly­ing in the bed. That was the cause of the wound I re­ceived on my back. From the continuing light­ning flashes, I saw a small open­ing on the floor to crawl out­side be­fore the wall fell down,” Salano said. “My good neigh­bors drove past and saw me out­side in the heavy rain as I hud­dled down by my car. They took me in­side their car and cov­ered me.”

The Kent Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment took Salano to the emer­gency cen­ter for treat­ment.

“I want ev­ery­one to know how grate­ful I am to all who helped me, es­pe­cially my clos­est neigh­bors, the fire depart­ment, those who treated me at the emer­gency room in Queen­stown, and my Kent Is­land Elks friend An­gela Meyer, who pre­sented me a check for $1,000 from the lodge to help with ex­penses. Those who came Tues­day to help me go through what re­mained of the house to re­trieve my few be­long­ings. Con­sid­er­ing all my friends’ help, I truly feel blessed,” Salano said.

Jes­sica Tester­man, one of sev­eral peo­ple in Bay City who lost their homes, had un­end­ing praise for the first re­spon­ders and vol­un­teers who came to help.

She said, “They were all ter­rific, great! I had so many peo­ple come by to ask to help us. Peo­ple of­fered me clothes, food, money (which I didn’t ac­cept) in at­tempts to help. Peo­ple who didn’t even live here and I didn’t know per­son­ally, of­fered help. It was amaz­ing!”

A group of Queen Anne’s County res­i­dents have been out ev­ery day since the storm help­ing home­own­ers get back on their feet us­ing Face­book as their medium to help.

Scott Saun­ders pub­lished a mes­sage on his Face­book ac­count the morn­ing of July 25 ask­ing how he could in­di­vid­u­ally help those in need, and im­me­di­ately some­one reached out, he said.

The per­son who reached out had trees block­ing most of the front of the house and the back porch had col­lapsed. Saun­ders said he went over, cut the trees away, helped clean up and then posted an­other mes­sage to Face­book ask­ing who else he could help.

The mes­sages kept pour­ing in, both from those in need and those look­ing to help.

Af­ter gath­er­ing a hand­ful of peo­ple that later turned into about 20 vol­un­teers, Saun­ders and crew helped a home­owner in El­len­dale un­screw things from the walls, pack up their garage and move items to the front yard.

Saun­ders again went to Face­book to see who needed help af­ter the job was com­pleted.

By 11 a.m. Wed­nes­day, Saun­ders had a list of peo­ple will­ing to help. Go­ing door to door see­ing if peo­ple needed as­sis­tance, Saun­ders found 16 houses that needed work. With a group of about 50 peo­ple, Saun­ders said those 16 houses were served that evening, fol­lowed up by 14 houses the fol­low­ing day.

Through Face­book, Saun­ders hooked up with Lucy Kruse and Aaron Berez­nak and be­gan com­mu­ni­cat­ing non­stop with them try­ing to co­or­di­nate vol­un­teers and those in need. The team directed groups of vol­un­teers to home­own­ers in need through the Face­book page “Kent Is­land Hap­pen­ings.”

Saun­ders praised the work Kruse and Berez­nak have com­pleted so far, as well as their en­thu­si­asm to help. He said the three of them act as a team in co­or­di­nat­ing var­i­ous re­lief ef­forts.

“Peo­ple have been just shock­ingly will­ing to get in­volved and do stuff,” Saun­ders said.

Af­ter a few nights, Saun­ders said peo­ple and com­mu­nity groups were reach­ing out to them for jobs large and small. With­out try­ing to take jobs away from con­trac­tors, vol­un­teers have been out ev­ery day clear­ing de­bris, mov­ing fur­ni­ture and com­plet­ing home re­pairs.

Kruse said hordes of kids over the week­end were car­ry­ing branches, rak­ing lawns and pulling wheel­bar­rows. She said the at­mos­phere of fel­low­ship was amaz­ing.

Though homes were dam­aged and items were de­stroyed, a strong sense of com­mu­nity and help­ing a neigh­bor had been dis­played the past week, Saun­ders said.

One dif­fi­culty the group has ex­pe­ri­enced is home­own­ers not ask­ing for as­sis­tance when it is needed. “Peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to help is enor­mous,” Saun­ders said. “Peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to ask for help is stag­ger­ingly small some­times.”

Kruse said some­times peo­ple don’t know how to ask for help or are too hum­ble to do so.

No mat­ter if other peo­ple have it worse, Saun­ders said the group of vol­un­teers they es­tab­lished would go out and help be­cause the en­tire goal is to get res­i­dents back on their feet and get life back to nor­mal.

“Just show up” is one of Kruse’s mantras, one she has fol­lowed ev­ery day since the storm. She said by just show­ing up and mak­ing the ef­fort it can give home­own­ers hope that their “life will go back to nor­mal.”

She said when help­ing oth­ers “you can see it in their faces they are so happy.”

Kruse said af­ter get­ting off the bus from work in D.C. last Tues­day, she knew she wanted to help. With­out di­rec­tion, Kruse grabbed a pair of gloves and went into Bay City look­ing for peo­ple in need. When she asked some­one if she could help, she said they had a big smile.

Kruse and Saun­ders spoke about an el­derly cou­ple in Bay City that was hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing their dog in the backyard as their fence had been dam­aged. Saun­ders said Berez­nak walked the fence line mul­ti­ple times in the pour­ing rain look­ing for var­i­ous ways the small dog could get free. Within 20 min­utes of post­ing on Face­book look­ing for some­one to fix the fence, Kruse said a com­pany reached out and of­fered to re­pair it for free.

Kruse and Saun­ders said mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies, from Queen Anne’s County and out­side, have sup­ported their ef­forts in help­ing, pro­vid­ing ser­vices at no charge.

Hop­ing to har­ness the en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm dis­played by com­mu­nity mem­bers, Saun­ders said a Face­book group will be cre­ated in the com­ing days that will be a cen­tral place peo­ple seek­ing as well as of­fer­ing help can go. But this group, he said, will hope­fully pro­vide peo­ple with ev­ery­day as­sis­tance needs, not just storm-re­lated dam­ages.

“This has blown me away and I want this to con­tinue,” Saun­ders said. “I want peo­ple to con­tinue to be en­gaged with their neigh­bors.”

Though the vol­un­teers have been all through­out dam­aged ar­eas and com­plet­ing var­i­ous types of needs, Saun­ders said they are stay­ing away from dan­ger­ous jobs.

When speak­ing about all the peo­ple who have helped, Saun­ders listed off busi­nesses that came to help for free. If some­one had a hole in their ceil­ing from limb dam­age, Saun­ders knew a com­pany that would, rain or shine, come out and tarp the roof for free. He said a tree cut­ting ser­vice of­fered cut­ting and chip­ping as­sis­tance.

The com­mu­nity re­sponse to such a sit­u­a­tion as a tor­nado blast­ing through a densely pop­u­lated area has been “amaz­ing,” Saun­ders said.

Saun­ders said he was im­pressed with those in­di­vid­u­als be­cause, in­stead of hand­ing out busi­ness cards, they handed out their time.

For peo­ple look­ing to help or re­ceive as­sis­tance, con­tact Saun­ders at 410490-2081 or mes­sage him, Kruse or Berez­nak on Face­book.

The Batts Neck Trans­fer Sta­tion will have ex­tended hours through Satur­day, Aug. 5. The trans­fer sta­tion will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Res­i­dents and their con­trac­tors may use Batts Neck Trans­fer Sta­tion to dis­pose of yard waste storm de­bris with no fees or tick­ets charged dur­ing the cleanup pe­riod. Res­i­dents must use their ticket books for dis­posal of con­struc­tion and demolition de­bris, such as lum­ber, sin­gles, glass, metal and other gen­eral storm dam­aged build­ing ma­te­ri­als with no vol­ume re­stric­tions.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works at 410-7580920.

PHOTO BY LYNDA JADEREN WOODALL

Vol­un­teers work at a home in Bay City Satur­day. Some of the vol­un­teers in­cluded mem­bers of the Kings­man Mo­tor­cy­cle Club.

Ge­orge Rider of Bay City helps his neigh­bor Bradley Lan­ing cut stumps off at the ground, Satur­day morn­ing, July 29.

PHOTO BY LUCY KRUSE

Two girls pull an ice chest to a job site and of­fer lunches and cold drinks to vol­un­teers help­ing clear de­bris af­ter a tor­nado stormed through Kent Is­land July 24.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Queen Anne’s County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gregg Todd, left, shows Mary­land Con­gress­man Andy Har­ris one of the Bay City homes de­stroyed by the July 24tor­nado. Har­ris toured Kent Is­land Wed­nes­day, Aug. 2, to see the dam­age to the area.

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