The week following the devastating EF-1 tornado has felt utterly surreal to Smith Island residents — most of whom are still reeling from the frightening ordeal. To some, life, at present, feels like a movie.
As recovery efforts progress and donations continue to pour in, Delmarva may rest assured that this calamity, although brimming with panic and fear, could have been much worse.
The small, coastal community was caught in the path of a destructive tornado that tore through the island on Aug. 4, 2022.
“What you see in the movies is how it really played out,” said EMS Captain Janet Tyler.
Winds hit over 100 mph
The tornado, with winds between 73 to 112 mph, resulted in zero fatalities and one injury. The injured woman, 88-year-old Doris Lee Bradshaw, was hospitalized in Salisbury at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional after being discovered underneath the rubble of her destroyed home.
“It’s amazing she’s even alive,” Tyler said of Bradshaw.
According to reports Tyler obtained on-scene, the outer wall of Bradshaw’s home fell onto the end of her hospital bed. This initial collapse prevented more debris from falling on top of Bradshaw.
Bradshaw has since been released from the hospital and is now recovering at Alice B. Tawes Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Crisfiled, where she is receiving physical therapy for her injury.
The remote island, which can only be accessed by boat or helicopter, is home to about 260 people and consists of three distinct communities: Tylerton, Rhodes Point and Ewell.
MORE:‘The damage is devastating’: Tornado strikes Smith Island, damaging more than dozen homes
“We’re a pretty strong community. We’re resilient,” Tyler said. “Everybody’s just sticking together, trying to see how we can help each other out and put ourselves back together.”
Buildings, homes destroyed by storm
Nearly one dozen homes and buildings were harmed during the storm, with damages varying in size and scale. This includes Island Time, a bed and breakfast on Rhodes Point, which was empty when the tornado struck. Nearby, a church was nearly demolished as 30 people sat inside, worshiping. The tornado, which was headed directly for the place of worship, spun away onto a different path.
“After seeing firsthand the path of destruction of the waterspout tornado on Smith Island, I am in awe of the resiliency and faith of the people of Smith Island,” said State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza in an Aug. 6 Facebook post detailing the destruction.
Carozza visited the island that same week to observe the damage and console distraught residents.
According to Somerset County Emergency Services, The Ewell Volunteer Fire Department has been at the forefront of recovery efforts and in close contact with the county. Also aiding is A&N Electric, which is working to identify specific areas where power is still down.
Anything that can be burned, including trees, branches and other debris, will continue to be disposed of on the island. Materials that cannot be discarded in fire, including metal, pieces of furniture or other household items, will be loaded into dump trucks and carried away on barges.
Cutting Crew Lawn Care recently donated its time by traveling to the remote island, chain saws in-hand, to assist with cleanup and debris removal. First Light For First Responders, a Maryland-based nonprofit delivering support to first responders, has also been lending a helping hand.
As of Friday, Aug. 12, an online fundraiser organized by Jay Fleming to repair and rebuild damage has reached its initial goal of $100,000 after collecting nearly $114,000.
Donations have reached an all time high, said Tyler, who is a member of a seven-person committee working toward dispersing monetary donations for tornado-related damage. Other committee members include Eddie Somers, Johnny Crantz Tyler, Scott Andreozzi, Duke Marshall, Jay Fleming and Pastor Everett Landon, who is overseeing the process.
“We really, really do appreciate all of these donations but we’re good on them right now. It’s a little overwhelming, the amount that’s come in,” Tyler said.
Although there is plenty to go around, some residents are struggling to accept help.
“We have one lady here whose whole roof had lifted off her house, but she’s still in there,” said Tyler. “She said, ‘It’ll be okay. They’ve got some tarps on it. You don’t need to worry about me. There are other people to worry about.’ ,
RELATED:How to help Smith Island in tornado recovery
Everyone is hanging in there, said Tyler. It is the endless support from various counties and communities across the Eastern Shore that makes tragedies, such as the very one Smith Island is facing, easier to recover from.
Olivia Minzola covers communities on the Lower Shore. Contact her with tips and story ideas at email@example.com.