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11/12/2018

EF-1 Tornado Lessons from Mt Airy MD


On November 2, 2018 an EF-1 Tornado touched down in my hometown of Mt. Airy, MD. EF-1 is the lowest level on the EF-1 to EF-5 National Weather Service scale. I learned that even an EF-1 can cause serious damage.
(For an analysis of an EF-5 in Joplin, MO, see here.)
There was no warning from the National Weather Service, on TV, or from local media. It just struck.
The NWS website here shows the early path of the tornado.

Miraculously, there were no deaths caused by it.
Find a few simple necessary civil defense supplies (like potassium iodate)  at the American Civil Defense store here.
Here is an incomplete summary of the damage from the National Weather Service:
  • Canopy at High's store was partly torn off
  • TJ Maxx roof was lifted up and partly removed
  • Trees down behind the Twin Arch Shopping Center near the water tower
  • Silo destroyed and roofs partly blown off outbuildings at Knill's Farm Market
  • Power poles snapped on Watersville Road (meriting the 100 mph wind estimate)
  • Five pine trees snapped at a residence on Watersville Road
  • Minor structural damage at several homes on Arrowood Circle
  • Multiple hardwood trees snapped in the 6000 block of Runkles Road
  • Trees uprooted east of Runkles Road on Gillis Falls Road
For local media accounts of the tornado after it happened, see:
Fox News
WTOP
Carroll County Times
Patch Westminster
Fox5dc
Carroll County Times
Baltimore Sun

Lessons Learned Due the Tornado

1.  The Media Only Reports Part of the Story
The Media concentrated on the damage to the stores while the greater damage was to the Knills Farm right behind the stores, the Nottingham development, and the double telephone lines on Watersville Road. There was extensive damage to a large dog kennel and numerous houses around Runkles Road. This and other damage was never
reported. Most got their story filed that night and then they moved on.
2.  Dishonest Contractors will Always Show up Post Disaster.
As many have not experienced a devastating natural disaster before, they can be taken advantage of by dishonest contractors.
The day after the tornado, multiple tree service, debris removal and home repair contractors showed up to offer their services. Many were insured, bonded and licensed . Others were not. So, we had to issue the following WARNING on the Town of Mt. Airy and other websites.
WARNING: Unfortunately, some dishonest tree removal, roof and building repair, and other kinds of contractors show up after any natural disaster. They offer services but disappear once paid without doing their job. Always check that any contractor you consider is licensed, bonded, and insured. Only pay them when the work is completed.
3. Your Insurance Only Covers Part of the Cost
This is just a fact of life. There are all kinds of exclusions in your policy. You never realize they are there until you try to make a claim.
(What is extraordinary about Mt. Airy is that the Mayor and citizens immediately organized to help those most hurt financially by the tornado, and especially those without insurance.)
4. Drones are the Future of Planning for and Recovering from Natural and Man-Made Disasters.
George Varros, owner of Mount Airy Drone Photography, has an innovative drone company. Our good fortune. He flew his drone over the damaged area the day after the tornado and again on 11/8/2018. He took the aerial drone views you see here.
As you can see from the aerial photos of the path of the tornado here this is a new technology that will have a huge impact on damage assessment, emergency management planning, civil defense strategic planning insurance claim validation, children's education, and for other uses we cannot even imagine right now.
I helped write the Town of Mount Airy Emergency Management Plan. It would have been useful to have had this technology when we did so.
5.  Have a Damage Survey Form Template Ready
Filling out a damage survey, such as the Carroll County Emergency Management Damage Survey Form is critical to establishing the facts about the financial damage caused by the tornado. Here is a simple Damage Survey Form that can be a template for others to use for other natural and man-made disasters.
6.  Human Ties are Critical to Successful Disaster Response and Recovery
Every successful response to and recovery from a disaster I've seen depends on people who love and care for each other taking action. Rather than explain, I offer this post for the Town of Mt Airy website that demonstrates this.
Knill’s Farm Update-
"Respecting the Knill family privacy I feel comfortable stating Mr. Knill, the patriarch of the family, is very touched by the community outreach of offers of support. They are accessing their current needs and will let us know in the future what help if any is needed. As a proud farming family and very self sufficient they have already opened up road access and performed other immediate services. Mr. Knill, a pillar of our community, states he has never seen a storm of this magnitude is his 78 years living here in Mount Airy. We will continue to communicate and look to Mr. Knill for guidance on what needs may arise. God Bless the Knill family and Mount Airy."
From the Town of Mt Airy website: Image of the Nov 2 Tornado Path as surveyed by our Town Engineer, Barney Quinn and Asst Town Engineer, Chaslyn Derexson. Red circles indicate where severe damage was observed (likely some locations were missed).
7. Good Government Governance and Communication Tools are Critical
The Town of Mt. Airy and Carroll County are both blessed with good governance.
Good governance results in a good response to a bad natural event, as here.
For example, the Town of Mount Airy and Carroll County have excellent communication tools. For example, this Storm Damage Information Sought from Businesses and Residents was created and distributed several days after the tornado. That's fast. As importantly, it has a link to an on-line Damage Survey Form to it has an excellent data collection feedback loop.
The Mayor of Mount Airy acted as the hub of the wheel coordinating the response:
Dispatched the guys from the Department of Public Works in minutes after the storm to cut up the trees in the roadways so people could drive the roads.
Coordinated with the Carroll County Emergency Management Office to bring in extra fire, police and emergency medical technicians.
For life to return to normal, tree and vegetation removal is essential after every natural disaster. Below are examples (Carroll County notice) about how it is done.
8.  Neighbors Must Help Neighbors
At church the Sunday after the tornado I heard a table of elderly people talking about it. One mentioned that he went to his elderly neighbor the night it happened and bailed out the water in her basement as the sump pump had no electricity. Then he gathered his three sons, gave them each a chain saw, and together they cut up the many trees that had fallen on her long farm road driveway so she could get to the grocery store.
There were so many acts of kindness like this that I cannot mention them all.
But the central truth of these acts of charity hold: neighbors must help neighbors.The Town of Mt Airy had already set up a Disaster Relief Fund and the town website encouraged those who needed direct assistance to apply. "  There is an application process. Call Ellie Bonde at 301-829-8300 Blossom and Basket Boutique.   Only money is distributed. Email address:  mtdisaster@gmail.com." The Disaster Relief Application Form is below.
What Must be Done
As with all natural disaster planning, the fundamentals must be repeated.
1. Learn IN ADVANCE what you must do to prepare to save yourself, your family, your pets, and your neighbors when disaster strikes.
2. Stockpile, within reason, items you will need to survive (water, food, medical, electronic, etc.).
3. Exercise for an event. Make if fun with children. This is vital. You will discover holes in your plan, supplies, contacts, etc. you will need to fill.
They Mayor's Report November 2018
The November 2018 Mayor's Report includes an excellent and brief analysis of what happened during and after the Mt. Airy tornado.
Remember...no one died. Some of that was Providence in that no trees fell on anyone. Still, after a tornado there is always the possibility of death or accidents. Here you will read of the professional actions of the police, fire service, utility companies, and various government officials who ensured that streets were closed, live wires were moved, and trees removed without anyone getting hurt.
The letter below is a blue print for how to react calmly, professionally and cooperatively as a well oiled machine to prevent the loss of life and damage to property during and after a natural disaster.
Team Mount Airy - Tornado Response
On Friday evening, November 2, 2018, the town was hit by a tornado with winds up to 90 miles plus per hour. This resulted in extensive damage to commercial structures, homes, and utility services. The Town’s role was mainly one of support and coordination, ensuring those unfamiliar with the community kept vital access routes to communities open by providing emergency services and equipment throughout the event. Follow-up efforts will continue throughout the week as well as updates on storm recovery operations. Twin Arch Road was fully opened today.

We need to thank many others, that worked behind the scenes but whose roles were just as important as those who were more visible during the emergency. Thanks firstly to our residents that showed amazing resiliency and humanity to each other.  Together you chipped in to restore normalcy, provide housing, essential services, worked to clear roads and open access to private homes, etc. as needed.  Many thanks to your Town Council members Peter Helt, Larry Hushour, Bob King, Jason Poirier and Patty Washabaugh who all chipped in manning Town Hall as an Emergency Shelter, providing much needed refreshments with a warm greeting to our utility crews and first responders. 


We know that those actions go a long way. We also had chainsaw wielding Council members, YES, they were out there with chainsaws too. Our amazing town staff that worked behind the scenes mostly, using large equipment to clear roads, keeping emergency generators running to ensure you received uninterrupted water and sewer services. 
At one point, they hand cut through the debris and using an ATV brought in emergency fuel to ensure essential water and sewer services were not interrupted. Thanks to the many commercial businesses that offered services and food to our first responders at no cost, such as Vocelli’s Pizza, Wings of Angel’s Chicken, Upper Deck, and Wagner’s Meat Locker.  Many other businesses did not have power but have a long history of sending food in for first responders who don’t have the luxury of taking a break.
We were also fortunate and appreciative of assistance received from our State and County agencies.  Special Secretary Wendi Peters from the Governor’s office checked in, it’s comforting to know our State Representatives and Governor have Mount Airy’s best interest in mind. 
Other agencies who were a critical part of the emergency response effort include the Carroll County Emergency Response Unit who set up the command center, Maryland Emergency Management Agency, first responders from neighboring local Fire Companies, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police and the Carroll County Roads Operations crew.
Again, thanks to the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company (MAVFC) and Chief Kenny Stull who were all out there in the rain Friday night securing our commercial areas that were literally torn apart. Life safety measures, getting gas lines, etc. secured was the priority and we are grateful for their swift and capable emergency response measures. Thank you to Chief Reitz and Lieutenant Snyder who along with other MAPD Officers assisted in various roles throughout the event. No major injuries were noted.
Team Mount Airy, Working Together, Weathered a Tornado!! Thank you all!

To View a video of the damage to an access road to one of the Mt. Airy water towers, click:
Tornado Damage Video. This was one of the hardest hit areas. The road by Knill’s Farm and to our waste water treatment plant directly behind Home Goods. We came very close to catastrophic essential facility damage. Please forgive my amateur video skills and note the large trees snapped like tooth pics. It was more horrific in person.

Bonus Tip: If you read this far, know that the inventor of the computer is buried in Mt. Airy MD in the back of the Pine Grove Chapel at 787 Main Street. Here are photos of his gravestone. For more information, see here, and here, and here.



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