‘We were really lucky’: Maryland leaders assess damage following tornado

“We were really lucky in terms of injuries and fatalities,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as he assessed the damage from Wednesday’s tornado.

Before long, contractors and cleaning crews arrived at South River High School in Edgewater, Maryland, or at the golf course community not far beyond. Wood chippers and chainsaws were early on cleaning up tree debris — branches as well as entire trees that had fallen over — and in some cases they were trying to figure out how to replace entire roofs that had been ripped off when a tornado swept through the area on Wednesday.

But a mile to the north, the mess of the remains of Hurricane Ida was much, much bigger.

On Oakwood Road in Edgewater, tree debris camouflaged the various downed cables and power lines that lined the side of the road, while contractors, chainsaw-wielding firefighters, insurance experts and building inspectors all paraded under yellow police tape to take a closer look at a destroyed block.

In a driveway was a pickup truck that had been picked up, flipped onto its roof and turned 90 degrees from where it had parked next door. Across the street, three houses lost their roof. In fact, one of the roofs had been lifted, moved, and put back down.

The county has already said the house should be torn down and rebuilt, although a fence should be put up around the property more immediately before it collapses. The house was less than a year old and now the owners sat under a tent in their driveway, staring at the building in disbelief. The front door, and the rest of the house, was a good 10 to 15 feet from the front steps.

“Everything feels like an explosion,” said Carlos Zepeda, who lives two doors away and was home when the tornado passed. His roof is one of the missing, having been blown into a park behind his house. “All the glass on this side just exploded. It was really bad.”

Both he and a man named Steve who lives across the street told WTOP it all happened very quickly, and the aftermath looked like “someone dropped a bomb here”.

“I just heard things flying all over the house,” Zepeda said. “From all angles they were just flying.”

“We were in the basement when it was going on and it was just a freight train, real loud noises and everything, and it only lasted about 10 seconds,” said Steve, who wouldn’t give his last name. “We came out, checked it later — all the fence in the back is gone, the truck flipped upside down, some branches through the sides of the walls and everything.”

Steve and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, both reiterated the key observation over and over: “We were really lucky in terms of injuries and fatalities,” Hogan said, assessing the damage at South River High School in Edgewater on Thursday. . “It could have been much, much worse.”

Remarkably, no one was killed or injured. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, who visited Oakwood Street Wednesday night, said the other thing that struck him was how well everyone who lived there came together to help.

“There was a group of people, a bunch of neighbors, on a roof where the shingles were gone,” he said. “As the governor said, people come together.”

The next concern, however, is what happens when the utility lines start cranking again. With damaged gas and power lines, as are some of the homes they are connected to, there are concerns about even more dangers.

“There’s a chance things will happen when the power is restored, when the gas is restored,” noted Captain Russ Davies of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. He warns people not to run generators too close to the inside of their homes, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

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