In a panic, Scott, 35, ran back into the Annapolis house where she lives with her mother, her sister and her sister’s children. They all raced into the basement and waited out the storm. Scott’s mind filled with disbelief.
Residents and businesses began recovery efforts Thursday after remnants of Hurricane Ida hammered the D.C. region Wednesday, with a tornado causing destruction in Annapolis and a severe storm triggering flooding in Rockville that killed a teenager.
The District and surrounding areas were pounded with thunderstorms that began early Wednesday and struck intermittently for more than 12 hours.
Most dramatic was the damage a tornado wrought on Annapolis — not a typical place for a funnel cloud to appear. Video posted to social media showed images of airborne debris swirling and showering down on Maryland’s capital, with downed utility poles along a wrecked section of West Street, a downtown artery just a couple of blocks from Scott’s home.
When the tornado passed and the air fell quiet again, Scott and her family emerged from the basement to find the back porch caved in, the awning on their front window collapsed, the back window of Scott’s car shattered and their brick chimney almost entirely missing.
The roof of the house next door was taken completely off the home, opening an aerial look into the second story. Scott said her neighbors were out of town.
In Rockville, 19-year-old Melkin Cedillo died after returning to a flooded apartment to find his mother, who survived. Cedillo’s family created a GoFundMe page to raise money for a funeral, collecting more than $33,000 as of Thursday evening. A second person from the same apartment complex was unaccounted for until Thursday morning, when Montgomery County police said the person was located out of state. About 150 residents of Cedillo’s apartment complex were displaced, police said.
In a news release Thursday, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) said the tornado struck about 2:15 p.m., leaving three buildings destroyed, 24 structures condemned, 26 with major damage and 49 with minor damage. Thirty-eight people were displaced, according to the release, with numbers expected to rise. The Weather Service’s preliminary damage survey indicated the twister was up to 200 yards wide and rated it an EF-2 on the 0-to-5 scale for tornado intensity. Winds were as high as 125 mph.
The city is under a state of emergency, the release said. The Maryland Emergency Management Agency reported 1,046 customers in Anne Arundel County were without power as of 7 p.m. Thursday.
“Our partners at the county and the state will be crucial to assist residents in the cleanup,” Buckley said in a statement. “We are thankful that there were no fatalities and no reported injuries. The fact remains we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
A portion of West Street, a major road bordering Annapolis National Cemetery, was completely blocked off Thursday. Businesses along a stretch from Hicks Avenue to Chinquapin Round Road were closed as police blocked traffic on the typically busy thoroughfare, now strewn with tangled power lines and tree branches.
Walter and Marcy Winters own the building that houses Annapolis International Market. It’s been in the Winters family for almost 40 years, and they said they had never seen anything like the destruction left behind Wednesday.
The parking lot was covered in pink fluffy insulation caked on the pavement. As soon as the couple heard about the tornado, they rushed over to the store to make sure everyone was safe.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen such damage in my life,” Marcy Winters said.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) walked along the street Thursday morning, careful to step over dangling power lines.
“We did have some issues across the rest of the state as well,” Hogan said, referring to flooding in Rockville and other portions of the state. “A lot of people across the state have been impacted. We’re here because these folks need the help the most.”
Hogan also visited South River High School, about six miles away in Edgewater, where leaves and trees covered the running track. The banging sounds of roof work echoed across the football field as Hogan toured the campus, taking in the damage.
Inside the school, about a dozen men in hard hats worked on the hallway and courtyard. Ceiling tiles had been blown out by gusts of wind that made it into the building, exposing the electrical and plumbing systems above.
“It’s amazing that there was no real structural damage and no one was hurt,” Hogan said.
In a neighborhood bordering the high school, most houses and the golf course snaking between them were untouched, with the exception of the cul-de-sac on Red Admiral Court. The house backing up to the golf course was missing a roof, windows were blown out and the siding of the house was almost folded in half.
Windows on some of the surrounding houses were boarded up, and blue tarps were draped on their roofs. The air smelled faintly of pine from the fallen trees that filled the yards.
Blair Alexander, who lives on Red Admiral Court, said he had never experienced anything like Wednesday’s tornado.
He could hear the wind whipping and howling outside. Like Scott, he compared it to the sound of a train running through his home. Before he and his family could get downstairs into the basement, the storm had passed, lasting no more than 45 seconds, he said.
“You could hear things crackling, but you weren’t sure what it was,” Alexander said. “You could look outside and see things moving, quickly moving.”
Alexander, a pastor, said his home suffered minimal damage. There were a handful of leaks throughout the house and a few fallen trees, and his garage was twisted and mangled.
“We were saved. There’s no loss of life. There’s no injury whatsoever,” Alexander said. “It’s a reminder to me that nature is more than us.”
Back in Annapolis, Scott stood in her front yard cleaning up some of the debris. Downed power lines throughout the neighborhood had left her family without power since the storm. They wouldn’t be able to stay in the house, so they were looking for hotels.
A neighbor came by pushing a baby in a stroller. She stopped to chat with Scott about the damage, wishing her the best of luck and assuring her that people would be around to help.
“If it’s just property damage,” Scott said. “I’ll take it.”