Tornado confirmed near NCCo airport
A tornado touched down in northern New Castle County this afternoon near the New Castle County Airport.
The tornado came in a strong storm that moved through the state at about 4:15 p.m. Flooding was reported in many areas of the county. Trees were uprooted, roofs were damaged, and debris was scattered over roads.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control called a Level 2 emergency after several planes at the New Castle County Airport were damaged, spilling an estimated 15,000 gallons of aviation fuel.
Capt. William P. McDaniel of DNREC said a C-130 had a wing sheared off and was and on its belly, and two others were jammed together by the wind. Another DNREC officer on the scene estimated that the damaged planes had spilled 15,000 gallons of aviation fuel.
“His estimate is it’s gone – just washed away,” McDaniel said.
The storm brought torrential rain. Water volume in White Clay Creek near Stanton quadrupled in a 15-minute period this afternoon, shattering daily records.
A U.S. Geological Survey monitor showed that the creek surged between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m., rising from a 375 million-gallon-per-day rate to 1.345 billion gallons daily. The river flow then doubled again in the next 15 minutes to a 2.24 billion-gallon daily rate – dwarfing the previous record rate of about 186 million gallons for any Sept. 28 on file and approaching volumes more typical of the Delaware River.
Water levels in Red Clay Creek rose more than 9 feet in a little more than an hour, according to a federal stream monitor. While severe, the rush of water was still nearly 10 times lower than the wall of water that ravaged creekside properties and the Glenville community in September 2003.
Flooding closed roads in many parts of New Castle County.
Meteorologist Al Cope of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., said the tornado was confirmed by New Castle County Airport officials who saw the funnel cloud at 4:15 p.m. Cope said there could be multiple sightings of the same tornado in northern New Castle County. “We haven’t been able to send anyone down to look at it yet,” Cope said.
Conectiv spokesman Bill Yingling said there were 8,700 customers without service in the Churchmans Road, Basin Road and New Castle areas. “Our crews are now out assessing the damage and working closely with emergency management personnel to restore service as quickly and safely as we can,” Yingling said.
The Delaware Emergency Management Agency headquarters at Smyrna is open, said spokeswoman Rosanne Pack. The agency was playing a backup role to the New Castle County Emergency Management Agency.
Kent County, she said, provided boats to help rescue motorists and others who were stranded by flooding. “There were just too many people stranded for New Castle County to handle,” Pack said.
Traffic problems were reported throughout the county. Police said traffic was at a standstill on U.S. 13 from Wilmington to U.S. 40.
Large slabs of uprooted asphalt were reported on Newport Gap Pike.
Charles Klinefelter, a sales representative for United Electric Supply, said the storm’s strong winds developed into a deafening rumbling sound and the building started shaking.
“The roof got sucked off and we just ran out,” Klinefelter said of what he estimated were 100 to 200 people who were in the large cinder-block building. “It tore the roof right out of the building. The whole side of the building was ripped apart. Garage doors were destroyed. Trucks were turned over.”
Ten minutes after the tornado hit, Klinefelter surveyed the damage with stunned employees of his company and several other companies along Bellecor Drive. As heavy rain fell, firefighters urged everybody away from the building because of a gas leak whose powerful fumes filled the air. Downed power lines lay on the ground. Several cars had broken windows and other damage.
“I was pretty scared,” Klinefelter said. “I’ve never been through anything like that.”
Some of the worst damage appeared to be at the New Castle County Airport.
“Some of our personnel also suffered some minor injuries and there was some damage to our buildings and the fencing around the airport,” said Maj. Len Gratteri, a Delaware National Guard spokesman.
He said Air Guard security police were guarding the perimeter.
Delaware River and Bay Authority spokesman Jim Salmon said that in addition to aircraft damage, the awning of the terminal building and the maintenance facility at the airport were damaged.
Jeff Thompson, a vice president of Richards Paving Inc., said he saw a tornado touch down while he watched from the front window of Richards Paving Inc. on Bellecor Drive.
“It formed what you typically see on a television program – a very dirty cloud,” said Thompson, who grabbed the door of his building and yelled to the employees inside: “Get down, get down. Make sure you are covered.”
The Weather Service said the tropical air mass was so large and so unstable that it spins off tornadoes that are undetectable on radar because they are weak.
“We have all kinds of problems. It’s a madhouse here right now,” said Roy Miller, a Weather Service meteorologist.
State police spokesman Lt. Joseph Aviola said several tornadoes were reported. “The tornado at Del. 141 and Jay Drive, a car was lifted in the air. We don’t know if it was occupied or not,” he said.
Along Del. 141 near U.S. 13, a late-model blue sedan was sideways in the road, empty and crushed on the back end. About 100 yards of fencing was torn down along the back of the New Castle County Airport, and metal debris was scattered in the area.
Basin Road Self-Storage at Del. 141 and Bellecor Drive sustained major damage. Roofs on some units were torn off and other units were crushed.
Troopers blocked some portions of Del. 141 and side roads as they worked to assess the damage and firefighters labored to shut off gas to the area. Power lines were down but not arcing.
At General Floor Carpet, a few doors from the storage facility, the roof was peeled back and damage appeared to be severe.
Two employees of Sid Harvey Industries Supply, John Dobies and Rich Jenkins, said they watched the funnel cloud form as they sat outside, watching the rain. They dived for cover once large debris started coming their way.
“Wow, it was something else,” Dobies said. “Their building just started peeling apart,” referring to sheets of tin, carpet and insulation coming out of General Floor Carpet.
“It is advisable at this point to stay off the highways,” Aviola said. “We have numerous roads flooded that are impassable.”
“First, I am very thankful that while there has been damage to property, there doesn’t appear to have been any serious injury or loss of life,” Gov. Ruth Ann Minner said. “This evening, we’re doing everything we can to make sure local emergency responders have the resources they need to assess the damage and begin cleanup. I am staying in constant communication with people in Delaware regarding the situation and will make sure the recovery goes as smoothly as possible from the state’s perspective.”
Planes battered, guardsmen hurt
By MIKE BILLINGTON and MURALI BALAJI
The News Journal
A tornado tossed around 55-ton Delaware Air National Guard C-130 transport airplanes like toys Tuesday afternoon at the air base at the New Castle County Airport.
About 6,000 pounds of jet fuel leaked from at least one of the Air Guard's damaged aircraft, according to Marsha Nickle, the New Castle County emergency preparedness planner. Some of the Air Guard's buildings also were damaged by the twister.
Late Tuesday night, however, military officials said they were not sure how heavy the damage was and likely would not know for certain until today.
Technical Sgt. Benjamin Matwey, a spokesman for the 166th Airlift Wing of the Delaware Air National Guard, said the tornado hit the air base portion of the airport at 4:14 p.m. Two Army National Guard soldiers and an Air Guard airman were injured slightly. All three were treated at Christiana Hospital, Matwey said.
"We are most grateful that injuries to our people are minimal, and that the troops have been released from the hospital,'' said Col. Ernest Talbert, the 166th Airlift Wing's commander.
Major Gen. Frank Vavala, the adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard, said the tornado touched down on a gate and swept into the air base. Talbert said troops had cleared the runway about 30 minutes before the twister touched down. They tied down the planes in anticipation of the tornado, but were not expecting the wind to be as strong as it was, Talbert said.
Talbert, whose private vehicle was damaged in the twister, said Air Guard officers will not know the full extent of the damage to the 110,000-pound airplanes until daylight.
"It was quite the experience," Talbert said, adding that state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control work crews cleaned up the jet fuel.
Maj. Len Gratteri, a spokesman for the Delaware National Guard, said five of the 166th's seven C-130s were damaged during the tornado. The 166th has eight C-130s assigned to it, but one is on deployment in Afghanistan, Gratteri said.
Vavala said the damage to the airplanes will not hurt the Air Guard's ability to run missions to Afghanistan.
Damn that's one hell of a wind to push a Herc around ! Ouch !
lot of sail area from the side, if wind is head on and at or above takeoff speed the thing is going to lift off.
I'ld sure like to know the decision making tree that knew that the remnants of the storms were coming up the coast and had been spawning tornadoes all the way up and then decided to leave the birds on the ground???
They should just light that 15,000 gallons, would be cheaper then cleaning it up. And would make one hell of a fire, but than again would prob destroy the runway.
Blessing in disguise? Maybe they'll get new "Js?"
I guess they didn't have to time fly the planes to a safer place.
Man, that storm just tossed those planes around like match sticks.
Carper assesses planes' damage
Four of five C-130's struck by tornado may be salvageable, senator asserts
By CRIS BARRISH
The News Journal
The military might be able to salvage four of the five Air Force cargo planes damaged in this week's tornado, but one "may be totaled," Sen. Tom Carper said Friday after inspecting the wreckage with Delaware Air National Guard officials at the base near New Castle.
Carper, a former Naval flight officer, estimated the damage to the C-130H planes is in the tens of millions of dollars. He said the cost could approach $100 million if the most battered plane - which went airborne and landed in grass more than 100 feet from where it was anchored to the tarmac - "has to be gutted, cannibalized and then disposed of."
Carper and Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard, said it would be several weeks before final decisions are made on repair or replacement of the planes.
The cost of a C-130J, the only version currently in production, is about $75 million, Carper said. He and Delaware's other congressmen, Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Mike Castle, have said they will work with base officials to see whether other U.S. guard units could lend planes to the 166th Airlift Wing so the eight-plane unit could continue functioning.
The Air Force has 448 C-130s in operation, including 185 in the Guard.
On Friday, Carper walked around the 50-ton planes with top officers of the base, located at New Castle County Airport. Noting that the planes had broken free from chains with links about 1/4 -inch thick, he told one officer: "Maybe we need better chains."
The Delaware planes, built in 1985, have been used in both wars with Iraq, and in Bosnia and Afghanistan and on humanitarian missions. They transport troops including paratroopers being dropped into hostile territory, and equipment such as helicopters and trucks.
Tuesday's tornado, classified as an F2 or "strong " tornado by the National Weather Service on a scale of F0 to F5, was about 150 yards wide and packed winds of about 130 mph. The winds of an F5 tornado can reach 300 mph, according to the Fujita wind scale used by meteorologists.
The twister first touched ground on the approximately quarter-mile long tarmac, where five of the eight C-130H planes were parked in a straight-line formation. The planes had been moved to the new tarmac about a week earlier, officials said. Two C-130s were on base nearby, and one is in Afghanistan.
The force of the winds sent the planes - dubbed by their mechanics as Sparky, Debbie, Hillbilly, Bubba and Pigpen - skidding over the tarmac. One was lifted in the air. Seconds later, Sparky sat in the grass on its right wing, its landing gear broken and its bottom crumpled.
Hillbilly had slammed into Debbie, and its fuselage rested under one of Debbie's wing and its tail, with the rudder broken off, lay over the cockpit area.
Bubba had skidded on one wing, and righted itself.
Pigpen moved several feet, damaging its landing gear.
Thousands of gallons of fuel also spilled.
As the tornado rampaged through the base, it wrecked cars and a brick gatehouse, and slightly injured three Guardsmen. Col. Ernest G. Talbert, the wing commander, said he was approaching the gatehouse when hail started pelting his Cadillac Seville, followed by what felt like baseballs and then furniture crashing into the vehicle. "I just ducked down," said Talbert, who was unhurt. The force blew out his rear window.
The tornado barreled off the base and tore through several businesses across Basin Road, ripping off roofs and walls, and then touched down again in the Elsmere area, shearing and uprooting trees and damaging more buildings. No one was seriously injured.
On Friday, as C-130 experts from the Air Force and manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. began examining the wreckage, Carper said Sparky might have to go the scrap heap. He said Hillbilly, Debbie and Bubba would need significant repairs, and that the damage to Pigpen was relatively minor.
Squinting at the carnage under a bright morning sun, Col. Daniel G. Van Wyk, the wing's vice-commander, shook his head as he looked up at Hillbilly and Debbie joined together in a tangle.
"You couldn't have done that," Wyk said, "if you tried."
I've got three words for these guys: tie down chains
Check this out, they had chains,
I don't leave my car parked outside, to bad these weren't parked in a fortified hangar.
Bigger chains would have just caused the fuselage and wings to separate - wings tied to the ground and the fuselage somewhere else... Just remember these are pretty stout aircraft - the same ones the "Hurricane Hunters" use to fly through hurricanes... I would hate to be the commander (not that he could have done anything to prevent it), but the unit is probably scrambling to say the least...
If they had any advance warning i think someone is going to get busted. At Hurlburt the any plane that could fly was gone as soon as we got wind something was coming. The planes that couldnt fly were stored in hangars.
You don't usually get very much advanced warning for a tornado.
Put an idiot on an A/C tug and he/she could do much worse. Or how about a fuel truck that jumps out of pump and into gear at full throttle,into the side of a 727-100(ol' Connie Kalitta really luved that one!).I've heard from pilots that being inside an aircraft on the ground is safer than being in buildings.(Carswell AFB,B-36s tails were ripped off,but rest of A/C mostly intact).
That'll buff right out ...
Little bit of Bondo and some paint, it'll be fine.
Think they make a Haynes Manual for one of those things?