Praise for emergency response unanimous
STEVENSVILLE — People had thanks and praise for emergency responders, neighbors and local businesses during the town hall meeting to assess tornado recovery efforts Wednesday, Aug. 2, at Matapeake Elementary.
Dave Rivett, chief of Emergency Management for Queen Anne’s County, welcomed everyone and introduced county officials and members of the disaster response team present. Both Commissioners Jim Moran and Steve Wilson praised the emergency response.
Rivett explained the purpose of the meeting was to determine what the unmet needs of the community are, if there are any gaps in services and what else is needed for recovery.
Questions had been raised about the emergency alert for the July 24 tornado; some people reported receiving the alert after the tornado passed.
Rivett said both the county and Maryland Emergency Management Agency are looking into the issue.
“Some of us know that the storm alert came out as a waterspout at 1:27 that Monday morning, and some people didn’t get it until four or five minutes later, and the tornado had already come through Bay City and it was on its way to Chester, so it is a concern, why didn’t it work?” Rivett said. “But I can assure you as the emergency management chief for the county I’m going to find out why, and we’re going to work this out with our partners.”
Public Works Director Todd Mohn said, “As everybody knows, our public works crews, the residents, the volunteers, the contractors have been down here since last Monday working very hard to clean up the impacted area hit by the tornado Our main focus to date has been to get the trees, the limbs and all the stumps out of there and cleaned up.”
Using a tub grinder from Maryland Environmental Service, they’ve been grinding material at the Batts Neck Transfer Station, Mohn said. At that point, they had ground up 25,000 cubic yards of material and removed 30 tractor-trailer loads of mulched material, he added.
Both Kathy Trotter and William Turner had praise for the emergency response by the county, the volunteers, neighbors and the state.
Trotter said the volunteer force organized by Scott Saunders, Lucy Kruse and Aaron Bereznak was a great group of people and a force to be reckoned with, and it was great to see the community coming together.
Turner said there were firemen at 2 o’clock in the morning “coming through and checking on us …. They were just phenomenal.”
Turner was also full of praise for Delmarva Power and the crews that “worked through the day and into the night” to restore electric service to the community. “They were great.”
His question had to do with rebuilding efforts. Would homeowners have to meet newer codes, such as installing sprinklers, he asked.
Vivian Swinson, office coordinator with the county permitting office, said existing building codes would have to be met, but that the county would do what it could to help expedite permits.
Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wisnosky said as the community enters the rebuilding stage, his office would consider extending hours or maybe opening on a Saturday if needed.
Jessica Testerman, whose house on Buckingham Drive was deemed a total loss, also lost her in-home child care business.
“My house, they’re going to tear it down,” she said. “But they’re saying only one business was lost, but I lost my business, which I do child care for 12 years. So, I don’t have a house, and I don’t have a business. What can you do for me?”
Rivett said he had been trying to reach her to put her in touch with the Small Business Administration, which offers loans and can help find relocation for businesses. He asked for her cell phone number.
Testerman added her thanks to everyone who volunteered to help. “They just did a great job.”
Much of the discussion centered on the large number of trees destroyed.
One man who didn’t give his name said lightning struck a large maple tree in his backyard, a large limb came off and the tree was hanging over his house. His insurance company said removal of the tree wasn’t covered. He talked to the Maryland Insurance Administration, which was able to get his insurance company to reconsider. He urged others to contact Maryland Insurance Administration if they had problems with insurance coverage.
Another man said the state and county need to look into better standards on what counts as making trees safe. He indicated trees secured to suit his insurance company then fell down in the next bit of wind.
Another man said, while his house was still standing, 20 trees had been leveled in his yard, and much of it is wetlands. He wanted to know if there was any federal or state assistance to help with the removal and what about replanting.
Wisnosky said because the trees were destroyed in a natural disaster, the homeowner wouldn’t be required to replace them.
Rivett said the county would be collecting information and statistics needed to qualify for federal and state disaster designations.
Debbie Stone of Zaidee Lane in Bay City said there were huge amounts of trees down at her house. Like Trotter, she praised the volunteers who helped her with clean up. “Lucy and her crew were great.”
Stone said she wanted to let people know their insurance companies may give them credit toward their deductible for the hours they spend cleaning up debris.
William McKay of Bay City offered a “tip of the cap” to those involved in the response and clean up.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Andrea Kane said the school system is lining up support for students in terms of school counselors and back to school supplies. Director of Operations Sid Pinder said he would work with parents to make sure children displaced by the tornado can attend their same schools.
Health Officer Dr. Joseph Ciotola said the health department can help with obtaining vital records that may have been lost, such as birth certificates and immunization records.
Pastor Amor Woolsey, associate pastor at Kent Island United Methodist Church, said, “So much love has just poured in.”
KIUMC has served as a distribution center for supplies and is the site of Haven Ministries disaster assistance shelter.
She added, “It’s great to see the body of Christ working this way.”
KIUMC has started a designated fund to help tornado victims, Woolsey said. The funds will be used for such things as security deposits for a rentals, deductibles, and other bills resulting from the tornado.
“The church is here to help,” she said.
Father Mark Delcuze of Christ Church Kent Island also offered assistance. “We have gift cards and all kinds of things we can do to help,” he said. The gift cards are for a variety of local businesses.
Krista Pettit of Haven Ministries invited people to stop and see her on their way out and pick up food and personal care items that had been donated.
Sgt. Sean Hampton of the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office reminded citizens to make sure their house numbers are visible in case of emergency. Some may have been destroyed in the tornado and need to be replaced.
The next tornado recovery meeting will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at Matapeake Elementary School. Everyone affected by the tornado is invited. A tornado hotline has been established with many useful phone numbers recorded, 410-758-5060.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-1st, and his wife, Nicole, speak with Registered Nurse Nancy Pippin, Wednesday, Aug. 2, inside Matapeake Elementary School in Stevensville. Pippin was part of the staff representing the Queen Anne’s County Health Department follow up to community needs from the tornado that swept across Kent Island early Monday, July 24. In the background are Gary and Jeanie Thompson, volunteers from Haven Ministries, who were also present to help individuals with personal food needs.
Doris Greeno of Bay City painted this sign to encourage her neighbors after the July 24 devastated the community.