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‘It looked like a war zone': Isaias leaves MOT neighborhoods in pieces

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

Tropical Storm Isaias hit Delaware Tuesday, causing power outages, at least one tornado, heavy rain and road closures.

The Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area and most of southern New Castle County has been heavily affected by power outages, with more than 9,000 people losing power at some point Tuesday, according to Delmarva Power's online outage map as of 5 p.m. It could be until Friday until power is restored in some areas.

According to Delmarva's website, the restoration process begins when the storm is cleared and conditions are safe for their workers.

DelDOT said power outages caused "numerous" traffic signals in New Castle County to go dark Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening after the tropical storm hit the state and created at least one tornado. The National Weather Service believes only one tornado swept through the state, tearing through New Castle and Kent counties, with sightings in Felton, Dover, Smyrna and Townsend.

MOT hit hard

Townsend Fire Company Chief Ray Clark believes the tornado ripped across Gum Bush and Blackbird Landing roads, east of Route 13. He said both were impassable most of the day, with trees and five utility poles lying flat on the road. 

At least one home on Blackbird Landing was “uninhabitable,” he said. One house on Gum Bush Road had a garage —  originally in the backyard — that was in pieces on the front lawn of the property.

“It looked like a war zone,” Clark said.

Townsend resident Angie Okita did not see the damage as it happened, but she was driving to work in the morning when she saw trees and branches covering Route 13, close to where the tornado hit.

Before the tornado hit, she said her home had damage just from the rain.

"I had rain coming through the bottom of my window at my home because it was blowing so hard," Okita said.

Frank Bailey, chief of the Volunteer Hose Company in Middletown, said every neighborhood they responded to had several homes with shingles and siding blown off.

“The whole backside of houses were torn up really bad. There is a lot of structural damage in the Middletown area,” he said. “It was really bad.”

Bailey, who has been chief since 2003, said they did not keep track of how many homes they had to go to, but he has not seen this kind of wreckage in many years. He said he was not aware of any severe injuries.

Of the developments the company was called out to help, Bailey said Summit Bridge Farms and Brick Mill Farm in Middletown and Brennan Estates in Bear suffered the most damage.

Lani Orellana, who lives at Brennan Estates off Summit Bridge Road, had 20-foot trees fall down, shingles missing off the roof, siding gone and interior ceiling damage.

She was taking care of her newborn and waiting for her husband to get home before the storm hit. It was only raining when he pulled his car into the driveway. By the time he was in the house, it had arrived. The house was shaking, the sky was dark and it was like a scene out of “The Wizard of Oz,” Orellana said.

“It took us by surprise because I was preoccupied with the baby,” she said. “It was so quick, it was shocking. I didn’t realize what was happening while it was going on because it was so terrifying.”

Lesley Correll had a similar experience. She heard the wind pick up in the distance and rushed her family to the basement. About 45 seconds later, trees were horizontal, her fence was torn down and her shed had a tree fall on top of it.

“It made my kids nervous and scared. It happened so fast I didn't have time to panic," she said.

Correll's home on Dove Run Boulevard in Middletown did not have much damage, but her neighbors were not as lucky. She said many homes had broken windows and entire sides of houses ripped off.

Road closures

Marl Pit and Cedar Lane roads closed Tuesday due to multiple down trees. Town crews cleared trees from the streets and electric lines, according to the town's website.

Route 1 southbound was closed Tuesday near Harris Road between Townsend and Odessa after a collision involving multiple tractor trailers, Delaware State Police said.