Tornado on Smith Island Injures One, Destroys Structures

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A building sits demolished as result of a likely tornado that touched down on Smith Island, Md., Thursday, Aug. 4. Photo courtesy of Robert Joseph Jones.

By Carol Vaughn — A tornado that started out as a waterspout and moved onto land on Smith Island, Md., Aug. 4, caused one injury and resulted in severe damage to multiple structures.

The National Weather Service  that evening noted a house on the island was damaged as result of possible tornado activity at around 7:22 p.m., during a storm.

The NWS later confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down on the island, with estimated peak winds of 110 miles per hour.

The tornado’s path was 2.2 miles long and it had a maximum width of around 100 yards, according to the NWS.

According to information provided to the NWS by residents, the waterspout touched down in the Chesapeake Bay just southwest of the island before it moved ashore, capsizing several large boats in Sheep Pen Gut.

After crossing the gut, the tornado crossed Marsh Road just northwest of Calvary Church, where it downed a utility pole.

The tornado tracked to the north-northeast, reaching high-end EF-1 intensity at the intersection of Marsh Road and Smith Island Road, according to the NWS.

It ripped the roof off the Island Time Bed and Breakfast and another nearby building.
Additionally, a mobile home just north of those two buildings was completely destroyed and one occupant was injured.

The tornado also downed multiple tress in the area before continuing to the north-northeast, moving into the marsh east of Smith Island Road.

Although the tornado weakened somewhat before reaching the north side of the island, it still severely damaged an outbuilding just west of the post office.

It also overturned a golf cart, which fell into Levering Creek, before moving back into the bay.

Photographs by Robert Joseph Jones, president of Ewell Volunteer Fire Company, show severe damage to structures.

This photograph taken by Ewell Volunteer FIre Company President Robert Joseph Jones shows damages resulting from a possible tornado that touched down on Smith Island, Md., Thursday, Aug. 4. Photo courtesy of Robert Joseph Jones.

Damage assessment teams were on the ground the next day, according to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said in an Aug. 5 tweet he had just spoken with Somerset County Sheriff Ron Howard about the situation.

“We’ve offered him the full resources of the state to assist with the response,” Hogan wrote.

Hogan’s spokesperson said later that day 17 homes were found to have been damaged, including three to four with major damage.

Accomack-Northampton Electric Cooperative crews were on Smith Island making repairs in the wake of the tornado.

As of Saturday morning around 60 cooperative members still were without power as result of storm damage, according to Jay Diem, ANEC spokesperson.

The extent of the damage and the location of the power lines led to a longer outage for those 60 members.

The remaining residents had power restored Thursday night.

“Some of the power line damage is located out in the marsh, making its accessibility more difficult for our guys to make repairs,” said Joe Cataldo, ANEC vice president of construction and operations.

“While working to restore the power we’re taking the opportunity to shift those lines closer to the nearby road which will make them easier to access and help any outage restorations in the future,” he said.

In addition to line crews, other ANEC personnel traveled to Smith Island to assist residents with the cleanup effort.

ANEC supplies power to the Eastern Shore of Virginia mainland, Tangier, and Smith Island.

Smith Island has a population of around 260, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Chesapeake Bay island, accessible only by boat or air, has three communities, Ewell, Tylerton, and Rhodes Point.

Jay Fleming, a photographer known for his photos of Chesapeake Bay communities, organized a fundraiser on gofundme.com to help with recovery costs.

The fundraiser raised more than $32,000 in the first 12 hours.

As of Monday, more than $104,000 had been raised from more than 1,100 donors.
Funds will be distributed to individuals and businesses on Smith Island by Smith Island United, the island’s 501(c)(3) advocacy organization.

To contribute, go to https://gofund.me/70934441

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