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Ida: The Clean-up Begins

The remnants of Tropical Depression Ida ripped through Maryland Wednesday, causing flooding in Montgomery, Frederick and Cecil counties and tornadoes that touched down in several places, including a swath of the state capital.

The storm knocked down trees and power poles, ripped off roofs and scattered debris along a seven-block stretch of West Street, a commercial corridor near the edge of town. Work crews had been out all night trying to clear the mess and restore power to thousands who had lost it.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, who had been out there with them, estimated the damage to the fast food joints, small shops and restaurants in the tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This commercial corridor just got back on its feet after COVID,” he said. “So, this is a devastating blow for things that are institutions, like Chris's Charcoal Pit.”

That’s a popular Greek restaurant in the 1900 block of West Street that was nearly destroyed.

The storm also ripped most of the roof off the nearby Annapolis International Market, leaving downed wires, bits of insulation and tons of damaged food inside.

Walter Vasquez, the owner, said he was on his way to the market when the tornado hit.

“I was about back a block away. “I was coming with my daughter to check the place because of the tornado warning and all of a sudden it just saw it when everything started moving quick,” he recounted. “It took about 20 seconds, probably 20, 25 seconds.”

He said he hustled his employees safely out of the store and into a nearby building he owns.

“Now, the damages are really bad as you see,” he said. But I have always believed that materials we can always get. Lives of human beings you cannot.”

What may have been most surprising was there were no reports of serious injuries, despite the devastation in the tornado's path.

“We were blessed that no one was hurt,” said Rhonda Pindell Charles, who represents the area on the Annapolis City Council. “And that, thank God, that's the main thing. That's what everyone in the community is talking about, that no one's been hurt.”

She was surveying the damage along with Buckley, Gov. Larry Hogan and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.

“We heard what sounded like a train,” she recalled. “Sounded like a train. People hit the deck and started praying because they didn't know. I’ve lived here for 67 years; my family's been here since the Civil War. I've never ever seen anything like this at all. Never, ever.”

She warned her constituents to be careful of people coming to their homes asking them to sign “certain documents regarding insurance.”

“They knocked on my door this morning,” she said. “I'm not disparaging anyone, but all I'm saying is people need to be careful what they sign and what they signed up for during this time, because it's very emotionally draining and traumatic. And so people gravitate towards something that sounds good, but may not be the best thing that they can do.”

The damage wasn’t confined to the commercial corridor. Homes along Forest Drive, a residential street a few blocks away were hit, as well. The roof was ripped off one house, trees had crashed into others and debris was scattered through normally well-kept yards.

Robert Clark, whose home was declared uninhabitable by the damage, said he was at work in Southern Maryland when his wife and brother called to tell him about the storm. When he got home he found siding had been ripped off, a tree had crashed through the roof and windows were broken, but no one was hurt.

“You know, that's the main thing,” he said. “This stuff can be replaced, you know, in a couple of weeks, you come back through and they'd be, you know, maybe a couple of months, but it'll be all cleaned up.”

Back on West Street, Hogan complimented city and county efforts and pledged the state’s support.

“We gotta get this power back on and hopefully get West Street reopened fairly quickly,” he said. “But then we've got to get everybody's homes and businesses put back together.”

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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