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Neighbors come together as houses fall apart near Moore’s Lake

Several houses condemned in south Dover after Isaias

Emily Lytle
Dover Post
Patty Foltz (left) comforts her neighbor Renae Shilling moments after Shilling’s home was condemned in a neighborhood near Moore’s Lake Aug. 6

Pam Willis grew up in Oklahoma, but she said she had never found herself in a tornado until Aug. 4 when Tropical Storm Isaias ripped through her south Dover neighborhood near Moore’s Lake.

“It was like a freight train came across my deck,” Willis said. Trees snapped and fell over, piling up in her backyard. Strong winds picked up her shed and moved it off its foundation. Trees and debris toppled her fence, and the storm stripped branches from her magnolia tree.

Like many people in the neighborhood off Manor Drive, Willis’ family and friends are on their way to help move the debris to the side of the road. They hope that crews from the Delaware Department of Transportation will pick it up. 

While Willis’ house did not suffer damage, many of her neighbors’ homes were hit hard. Kent County condemned several homes in the area throughout the day Aug. 6. 

Kent County has counted 13 houses, three commercial buildings and seven accessory structures that are condemned in its jurisdiction. Those numbers may change as staff inspect more properties tomorrow.

In Dover, city officials confirmed that 15 buildings were condemned, and several more needed to be inspected further due to trees and debris covering the structures. One is the historic William Henry Middle School on Carver Road.

Sarah Keifer, director of planning and services for Kent County, said inspection staff could not get to the homes on Manor Drive until the afternoon of Aug. 6. She said most of the damage in Kent County’s jurisdiction was in neighborhoods. “It’s grim,” she said. 

Willis’ nextdoor neighbors, Dan and Renae Shilling, had a tree nosedive into their bedroom, leaving a gaping hole and pink insulation spilling onto the bed. They found cracks in the walls in their bathroom. Their garage doors were bent inward, and a tree knocked out a front window.

After Dan Shilling spent much of the day working on the roof, their house was condemned around 3:30 p.m.

Down the street, Patty Foltz’s friends and family were moving limbs and trees outside the Cape Cod-style home she built with her father. She said she was in the back of the house when the reported tornado hit, so she didn’t hear the train-like sound.

“Everything got silent. No rain. No wind. No nothing,” Foltz said. That’s when she said she ran to the basement, and as soon as she touched the first step, the tornado hit. 

She was on the phone with her daughter Katelyn Dunn when it happened. Dunn said she remembers her mom screaming, then telling her, “I’m alive.” 

Foltz said she doesn’t remember much immediately after the tornado, but one memory is especially vivid. “I looked into my dining room, and there were leaves blowing into my dining room,” she said. 

Dunn said neighbors physically carried one of her 90-year-old neighbors through the debris. When you looked down the street, you couldn’t see past an eight-foot-tall stack of trees. “It was really scary,” she said. 

While Foltz was standing in her driveway Aug. 6, neighbors came from all around to check on her. One friend brought her a cold lemonade. She said strangers and friends alike have been coming to help.

“You never know what people will do for you until something like this happens,” she said. “And then you feel so blessed.”

Kent County staff members were inspecting homes on Manor Drive late into the afternoon. If a house is condemned, that does not mean it cannot be repaired, Keifer said. The county will work with residents’ insurance companies and help them figure out next steps.

If a house is considered a “total loss,” the county will help residents get a building permit. If insurance does not cover the permit fee, which Keifer said is around $2,000 for a single-family two-story home, the county will waive it.

“We want to be a partner to people in getting their houses built,” she said. “We don’t want to be an impediment. We want to assist everybody and we’re going to be available to them however they need.”