The aftermath of the tornado that struck Smith Island can still be seen two months after carving a destructive path through the sparsely populated Chesapeake Bay archipelago.
The August 5 EF1 tornado began as a waterspout that continued on land, damaging a number of piers and homes although it did not seriously injure any residents. With winds of 73 to 112 mph, the most severe damage was to power lines; the home of elderly resident Doris Lee Bradshaw, who was injured while sleeping inside; and a bed-and-breakfast, which lost its entire third floor.
For Pastor Everett Landon, growing up on the island meant dealing with fast-moving and potentially dangerous weather. He can still see the rubble of the Bradshaw house which has not yet been removed or rebuilt.
“Our faith is very important on the island, and we pray that God protects us in case of storm or bad weather. If we have damage, we just pray (in thanks) that we stay safe. We are like any other place where neighbors have disagreements, but they are the same people who will be there to help you when you need it,” Landon said.
Rubble remains after the tornado
Small home touches like sofas and other Bradshaw home decor are still strewn about in a pile of wood and roofing. A short walk from the remains of the house is the Island Time Bed and Breakfast. Signage in front of the B&B shows the building in better times before the tornado reduced the building by an entire floor. It now sports a makeshift roof only with a tarp.
What took Island Time owners years to build and perfect it was only briefly completed.
The efforts of local organizations such as Smith Island United – led by Eddie Somers, Johnny Crantz Tyler, Scott Andreozzi, Duke Marshall, photographer Jay Fleming and Pastor Landon – have been at the forefront of rebuilding efforts.
“I don’t remember a tornado hitting here, but I’ve seen it once in my life, but that was somewhere else. We had some squalls, but maybe that was the first time in a hundred years that she had come to earth,” Somers said.
STORM HISTORY: Database of tornadoes in Maryland since 1950
The Smith Island United Committee for Tornado Relief met in mid-September to discuss the first round of checks to be issued to uninsured tornado damage claimants.
Those first checks, unanimously approved and distributed within 10 days, total approximately $34,000 which will support approximately 50% of submitted claims, according to the group’s social media post.
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That left 13 claimants who have insurance. Most of the policyholders suffered significant damage, some property having been totally destroyed. The delays are due to obtaining all the necessary information from the insurance companies.
Others who have contributed to the rebuilding efforts, like Fleming’s, have raised $117,092 to date.
Road rehabilitation and budget deficits
Much-needed road repairs on the island were also addressed by Smith Island United in a social media post on September 30. projects were opened with two contractors submitting bids.
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DSM Properties LLC of Randallstown, Maryland was the lowest bidder, submitting a bid for $1,870,962, which was $620,962 more than the budgeted amount of $1,250,000 for fiscal year 2023. The county had received $1,000,000 $ from the US Economic Development Administration.
This shortfall prompted the county to consider obtaining additional grant funds. But the decision was made to request the funds from the county itself. A special Roads Board session included a recommendation to fund the shortfall and award the contract to DSM Properties, without deviating from the original scope of work.
According to the council, the proposed works address current conditions influencing daily tides and road deterioration with a focus on potential sea level rise in the future.
“We are excited to be working on this project and have already begun to do so. Following Tuesday’s approval, I have met with the contractor and they have already commenced work, submitting material products and specifications for our approval and working on a logistics plan,” Barnes told Smith Island United in correspondence.