Maryland crews assist with tornado cleanup efforts on Eastern Shore

A storm so strong it moved a house off its foundation (Kristi King, WTOP)

WASHINGTON — Maryland state agencies have joined with responders in Queen Anne’s County to help residents recover from the tornado that damaged homes and other buildings on Kent Island.

Gov. Larry Hogan has promised any assistance victims need to rebuild after Monday’s tornado ripped off roofs, top floors of homes and toppled trees.

More than 70 crews from the State Highway Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority have been operating front end loaders, dump trucks and other heavy equipment to help complete the cleanup.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development has activated a disaster loan and grant program to help small businesses, homeowners and renters.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency is also coordinating requests for state aid.

The strong tornado tore across Kent Island early Monday morning, pushing houses off foundations, dumping roofs in fields and leaving a 2-mile-long path of destruction.

The EF-2 tornado formed as a waterspout over the Chesapeake Bay before coming ashore about 1:29 a.m. in the Bay City area, just south of U.S. 50, before turning toward Stevensville to the northeast.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Queen Anne’s County at 1:27 a.m., which was canceled at around 1:48 a.m. The tornado cut a path that was 150 yards wide at its peak and reached wind speeds of 125 mph, according to the weather service.

No one was killed, but one person was taken to the hospital after suffering a puncture wound from debris. The man was later released, officials said.

Hours later, nearly 6,000 homes and businesses in Queen Anne’s County remained without power. Many residents also had no access to fresh drinking water because their wells run on electric pumps. Gas leaks were also reported and cell service was spotty.

“It is a disaster,” said Tom Snook, surveying the damage in the Bay City area. “A man’s house blew down.”

The worst damage was concentrated around the Bay City community, just south of the bridge. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Still, he said, it was fortunate that no one was killed. “God is looking out for everybody down here.”

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford toured the island to assess the damage that hopped and skipped across the landscape, uprooting and bending powerpoles.

“It’s devastating, in terms of seeing the power, the force that came through in this storm,” he said.

Such strong tornadoes are rare along the Eastern Shore, which last saw such a powerful twister 15 years ago. And only two other similarly strong tornadoes have ever touched down in Queen Anne’s County, according to the weather service.

“You could hear the rain sideways — it ended just as quickly as it started,” said Deidra Harrish.

Maryland officials asked residents in the southern section of Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County to remain inside their homes until live and damaged electrical wires could be cleared. They warned that those who must travel should stay clear of downed power lines.

“We want to emphasize, which is very important, that people shelter in place and do not leave their homes until the power situation is taken care of,” said Scott Haas, the county’s director of emergency services.

“Two of the main transmission lines were taken out in the storm, and it’s going to be a significant amount of time until they can get it up.”

An emergency center was set up at Centreville Middle School (231 Ruthsburg Road, Centreville, Maryland 21617) and a family reunification site at the Kent Island Fire Department (1610 Main St., Chester, Maryland 21619) to assist affected residents.

Haas also warned residents who have home generators to run them outside of their homes. Running generators inside could be very dangerous, he said, and running a generator can supply power to fallen electrical lines, even when the power is off.

Maryland transportation crews planned to work through the night to clear debris from roads. And the state police sent in 25 troopers and civilian staff to patrol the area and check on residents’ welfare.

The worst damage was concentrated around the Bay City community, just south of the bridge. But more damage could be found along Maryland Route 8 to the south of the island.

The storm system also left damage west of the bay, including in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge closed for about an hour due to the storm, but was not damaged.

On Thompson Creek Road, the stumps of freshly toppled trees stood 4 feet high and porches could be seen dangling from the sides of townhomes. Twisted piles of siding and portions of roofs dotted the ground.

Elsewhere, a business was destroyed, and residents found boats from the harbor in their yards.

Facts about Maryland tornadoes:

  • First tornado in Queen Anne’s County since June 1, 2012, the 11th since 1950, and the third F2/EF-2
  • Maryland’s first strong tornado (EF-2 or greater) since September 2004
  • The 33rd EF/F2 tornado in the state of Maryland
  • The 42nd strong tornado (EF-2 or greater) in Maryland
  • First EF-2 or greater tornado on the Eastern Shore since May 5, 2002
  • Only second strong tornado on record in Maryland from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The other was at 3 a.m. during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

WTOP’s Kristi King reported from Stevensville, Maryland. WTOP’s Dick Uliano, Dave Dildine and Hanna Choi and NBC Washington meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts also contributed to this report.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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