Home and business owners are still grappling with the damage inflicted by an EF1 tornado with winds around 90 mph that touched down in Westminster, New Windsor and Manchester on Friday. They will likely be dealing with contractors and insurance companies for weeks and months to come and, for some, it will be a tremendous hardship. But at least they aren’t dealing with hospitals or funeral homes.
Frankly, given the path of destruction with all the downed trees, flying debris and affected buildings, it’s amazing that no one seems to have been seriously injured. Westminster police, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, and Carroll County Emergency Management told us Monday that no injuries had been reported due to the storm. (The situation was similar to when a tornado hit the Mount Airy area in November of 2018 with 100 mph winds doing significant damage structural damage.)
For that, we can thank divine intervention, extraordinarily good luck and, of course, people following the procedures that are in place for an emergency situation such as this one.
When residents became aware of the National Weather Service’s tornado warning via cellphone notifications or through news reports on websites, television or radio, they took the warning seriously and took shelter from the storm. “It sounds like many people heeded those warnings," Valerie Hawkins, the county’s emergency management manager told us.
Hawkins also talked about the emergency response throughout Carroll: “There were a wide range of agencies and responders that took part. I think they all worked well together.”
Five tornadoes touched down in the state Friday morning. The worst of it for Carroll County occurred just after 8 a.m.
The first noted damage consistent with a tornado was in the Avondale Ridge community just west of Md. 31, southwest of Westminster, the National Weather Service said. Clusters of snapped and uprooted trees were noted and the tornado caused damage as it traveled northeast through downtown Westminster, roughly paralleling Ridge Road and Union Street, where, again, trees were uprooted and snapped, some damaging cars, roads and homes, according to NWS.
The service said the tornado continued up Hahn Road along Sunshine Way, where more snapped and uprooted trees were seen, as was residential fencing damage, and a large recreational vehicle and a small military trailer were blown over. Damage was also observed along Lucabaugh Mill Road, west of Md. 27. The tornado then lifted northeast of Westminster and no damage was noted for about 4 miles until it neared Manchester, where numerous large trees were uprooted and snapped along Fort Schoolhouse Road, and a home had a section crushed by a large falling tree.
“A lot of the damage was a situation where a building was affected by the tornado," Hawkins said, noting she was not aware of any damage so extensive that people were displaced from their homes.
The timing was such that the storm was hitting Westminster exactly when many students were at bus stops, on buses, en route to or already at school. There were no school bus accidents and all students on buses were safely transported, according to Mike Hardesty, director of transportation services, noting that bus drivers were all made aware of the tornado warnings and took prescribed precautions and that schools followed sheltering procedures.
A tornado is a rarity in Carroll County, but this one was all the more surprising coming as it did in February, when we’re ordinarily not worried about a storm producing such danger. But that only serves to underscore the point that a disaster — natural or otherwise — can occur at any time.
Hawkins recommends citizens have emergency plans in place in addition to heeding warnings issued by the weather service and county agencies. That’s good advice. Because we will, inevitably, have another serious situation to deal with at some point. We can only the outcome is as relatively fortunate.