Violent storm rips through Cape Region

A sudden and violent storm ripped through portions of the Cape Region June 25, causing severe damage to homes and businesses and catching many bystanders off guard.

A severe thunderstorm with winds topping 65 mph moved across Sussex County about 9 a.m., said Mark DeLisi, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Contrary to witness accounts, no tornado was reported, only straight-line winds, he said.

“In all the time I’ve been on this corner I have never seen a storm that violent, that fast,” said Rick “Sharky” Shingledecker, owner of Sharky’s in Dewey Beach. “It just came out of nowhere. It’s a miracle that somebody didn’t get killed.”

Sharky’s patio was filled with people eating breakfast when the sudden storm hit. He said he was fortunate to have enough good Samaritans around, including Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, to help close the curtains on his canopy.

“If they had not been down, this whole thing would’ve been gone,” he said.

While he was fortunate his building sustained no damage, the sycamore tree in front of the restaurant wasn’t as lucky. Sharky said he planted the tree nearly 16 years ago. At the time, it was only as wide as a mop handle, he said. Over the years, he said, the tree has become a landmark and popular meeting place in Dewey Beach.

“It’s just a heartbreak to lose a tree like that,” he said. “I could see the building going just as easy as that tree. So many memories. Kids come up and swing on it.”

Sharky said he hopes to salvage some of the tree.

Joe Sandri and Bill Froh were riding their bicycles to Sharky’s from Bethany Beach when they were caught in the storm. They said it was so violent they had to find shelter in a guard shack about a mile south of Dewey Beach.

“We’re kind of stupid; we’ll bike through anything, but when that storm started hitting we got off the road,” Sandri said. “[Rain and hail] were pounding. Water was rushing through the windows of the guard shack.”

The hail was about pea-sized, Froh said. The bikers said sand and dirt were hitting them sideways off the bay before they sought shelter.

“We thought we were going to be blown right off the road,” Sandri said.

Sgt. Cliff Dempsey of Dewey Beach police said an officer witnessed a water spout make landfall at Dickinson Street, where it severely damaged the Lighthouse Restaurant’s patio and deck.

“He observed a large water spout heading in a northeasterly direction, so he relocated himself a little south to Van Dyke, and that’s when it came and hit the Lighthouse,” he said.

The water spout dissipated once it hit land, he said, but also caused damage to homes on Rodney Avenue. Bethany Beach firefighters also extinguished a transformer fire at the intersection of Collins Street and Route 1, causing major traffic delays. No injuries were reported, he said.

“This is the first water spout I know of in several years that hit land and caused damage around Dewey,” Dempsey said.

Jeremy Tucker, spokesman for Delaware Electric Cooperative, said about six utility poles were blown over by the winds. About 7,000 customers lost power when the storms came through at 9 a.m. As of 2 p.m., Tucker said, 1,300 customers were without power. Neighborhoods in the Angola area were the hardest hit, and crews expected power to be restored by late afternoon or evening, he said.

Several trees fell on homes damaging roofs in the Angola area.

Lightning strikes caused havoc for Delmarva Power equipment and resulted in about 50 customers losing power, said Matthew Likovich, spokesman for Delmarva Power.

Delaware’s severe weather was part of a band of storms that ran up the Atlantic seaboard to central New York. The storm’s high winds and lightning strikes were part of an unstable air mass, said meteorologist Kristin Kline, also of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J.

A cold front following the storm front triggered severe weather conditions, she said.

Storms moved off the Atlantic coast by noon, and the cold front was expected to move into the area by the afternoon, dropping temperatures by about 8 degrees and lowering humidity, she said.

More Safety Info:

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  5. Severe storm brings bizarre occurrence – WALA

 

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