The state of Delaware is gathering damage information for last week’s tornadoes to apply for federal disaster status.
The state, Kent County and New Castle County are working with a lot of organizations to try to help people clean up, including a nonprofit called Crisis Cleanup that will help homeowners for free, said A.J. Schall Jr., director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.
Talking during Gov. John Carney’s weekly coronavirus press briefing, Schall showed a slide that said homeowners should call 844-965-1386 for help with fallen trees; removal of drywall, flooring and appliances; tarping roofs; and mold mitigation.
Services cannot be guaranteed because of the overwhelming need, he stressed. The hotline will remain open through Aug. 28.
The state has 30 days from the day of a disaster to apply and must meet certain criteria to get a presidential disaster declaration, Schall said.
Those criteria include quantifying the amount of losses and cost of cleanup. Being declared a federal disaster area opens up special loans and other processes that can help the state recover more quickly.
Delaware will have to file two applications, Schall said. One would cover the damage Tuesday from Tropical Storm Isaias and the two tornadoes it spun off. The other would cover the tornado and straight-line wind damage in Hockessin, Greenville and Wilmington Friday night.
The 29.2 mile tornado caused by Isaias is the kind of tornado that’s normally associated with the Midwest, Schall said.
On Friday, he said, “We knew we had the potential for some severe storms and had two storms that merged together in the northern part of the state.”
The University of Delaware Environmental Office reported more than an inch of rain fell in five minutes in that storm, “which is historic levels,” Schall said Tuesday during Gov. John Carney’s weekly coronavirus press briefing.
Schall pointed out that the state has had three tornadoes in one week when its historic average is just one a year.
He also said the National Weather Service is still investigating what may be another tornado “a little further east” of the storm Friday but didn’t give any details.
Schall acknowledged that thousands of trees have been knocked over.
“We understand that debris removal is one of the huge issues right now,” he said.
DEMA is working with state legislators, the Solid Waste Authority, Deldot and more to see what they can do to help. He praised the power company for its quick help restoring power — to 60,000 customers alone from Tuesday’s storm — in both emergencies, as well as local fire departments, the American Red Cross and more.
The state is still trying to determine the needs and how to triage them, Schall said.
The state has asked other organizations, including the Red Cross and Team Rubicon, a volunteer organization staffed mostly by military, for help, but the state has a better chance of getting help from those organization and President Donald Trump if it can quantify how much damage is out there.
There’s still two months of hurricane season left, Schall said, and the state already has been hit by two big storms.
“If anything, this hopefully reinforces a few things for people,” Schall said. “When you get the weather alerts, whether it’s on your phone or on TV or radio, you know to seek shelter.”
Tornadoes are not something people should take the chance of being hit by, he said, and every family should have an emergency plan.