RHODES POINT — A rogue waterspout that crossed over Smith Island last Thursday evening as a tornado demolished an occupied mobile home and took the roof and third floor off Island Time vacation rental here before causing additional damage as it moved over Ewell.
There were no fatalities and the mobile home’s owner, 88-year-old Doris Lee Bradshaw, who was home at the time was virtually unscathed. She was rescued by neighbors and transported off the island and hospitalized overnight.
Views of what turned out to be an EF-1 tornado with winds ranging between 86 and 110 miles per hour were widely shared on social media by those who saw it in Crisfield, and on Smith Island — whether hundreds of yards away or even closer as Kathy Taylor-Donaway filmed the roof being ripped off her neighbor’s house.
While her home suffered no damage, a back shed was lost, declaring on Facebook her video days are over as next time “I will be running for cover.”
There was a fragmented line of storms crossing the middle section of the Chesapeake Bay that evening but a powerful cell rapidly appeared at Smith Island around 7:20 p.m. with no weather alert issued.
Ewell Volunteer Fire Company members were alerted to the damage, and among them was Lindsey Bradshaw, who was in Ewell for the evening Camp Meeting service, who responded to the “building collapse” call to his mother’s Smith Island Road address.
By the time of his arrival those on the scene assured him she was OK, despite the scene of a collapsed trailer with household belonging scattered about.
At the Island Time, a circa 1920 house on the point of Smith Island and Marsh roads, the winds sheared off the third floor of the building that had been completely renovated in 2019. Owner Betty Tyler told The Baltimore Sun the next day that the damage was “immaterial” compared to the experience of her neighbor next door, and that it was “better to laugh than cry.”
Some 17 homes were reported damage to some degree, and there were other losses including capsized boats, downed tree limbs, and the fuel pumps along the water at Ewell were knocked over.
Robert Jones took video of the twister as it came right over the Smith Island Bakery on Caleb Jones Road in Ewell, narrating that the debris circulating around the receding tornado was “all kinds of stuff from Rhodes Point.”
He was at the end of the dock, closing up the boat when he “watched it come across. It went right across the top of us here at the bakery,” he said.
Power was knocked out but the island’s generator kept the lights on except for some 64 properties where poles and transformers were downed. A&N Electric Cooperative personnel barged over trucks, equipment and crews to make repairs.
Smith Island United credited the fire company’s response, and that of A&N Electric. “By early afternoon (Friday) they had trucks and poles on the Island. Power will most likely be restored to all by this afternoon (Saturday).”
Major cleanup was on hold until insurance adjusters arrived to assess the damage, and SIU added there was plenty of food and water although for a time residents were asked to curtail water usage while the power situation was limited.
Also responding to assist that evening was Chief Frankie Pruitt and members of the Crisfield Fire Department in Marine 2 — transferring an EMT to the Capt. Jason which was ferrying Mrs. Bradshaw to the mainland for transport to TidalHealth. On Friday Marine 2 went over again with cases of water.
Professional photographer Jay Fleming, who had taken a photo in 2020 of Mrs. Bradshaw when she was attending the Camp Meeting service, posted the image on his Facebook page. He wrote, “Getting back to normal will be a challenge for Doris and the others whose properties were damaged or destroyed,” and in support started a Go Fund Me page titled “Smith Island Tornado Damage – Recovery and Cleanup” which by Sunday evening had raised nearly $95,000.
A member of SIU, Mr. Fleming will leave management and distribution of the funds to the nonprofit advocacy group. The donations, he added, “will help relieve some of the financial burden on this resilient community.”
The seven-member committee formed to disperse the funds includes Mr. Fleming, Janet Tyler-EMS Captain, Pastor Everett Landon, Eddie Somers-Smith Island United, Johnny Crantz Tyler, Scott Andreozzi, and Duke Marshall. Pastor Landon is overseeing this process and can be reached at 410-968-3517 or text at 443-783-2079 for details.
This week on Monday the Smith Island situation was to be discussed by members of the Eastern Shore Long Term Recovery Committee, which is currently committed to house replacement and resiliency projects to address tidal flooding in Crisfield. Disaster Coordinator Kim Hopkins, who is helping SIU with a grant recently awarded to assist low-income residents make home repairs on the island, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 340-643-7516 if you are an individual (not business) in need of cleanup support or repairs.
Groups offering assistance are directed to contact Fire Chief Eddie Evans at 410-251-1635 for direction on how to proceed. For donation of supplies, contact Janet Tyler at 443-235-3992 before sending anything to see if it’s genuinely needed.
In addition to the Go Fund Me page, contributions may be sent directly to Smith Island United, Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 40, Ewell, Md. 21824.