Tropical Storm Isaias spawned six tornadoes in four states Tuesday, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., confirmed Wednesday, including one in Bucks County and one in Montgomery County.
The NWS has yet to provide exact locations for the touchdowns and expects to take several days to asses damage to determine the strength of the tornadoes prior to providing their EF-Scale ratings.
In Bucks County, the investigation appears to be centered on Doylestown, especially at Doylestown Hospital, where damage was extensive.
The other four tornadoes attributed to the tropical storm were in Kent and New Castle counties, Del.; Queen Anne’s County, Md.; and Cape May and Ocean counties, N.J.
At Doylestown Hospital, at approximately 11:15 a.m., portions of the roof of the Children’s Village Day Care Center were damaged by high winds, necessitating the quick evacuation of the children ages infant to 6, by police, firefighters and employees of both Doylestown Hospital and Penn Medicine, which rents space in the Pavilion on campus for its Cancer Institute.
Also at the hospital, cars were blown around the parking lot, some landing on top of others, resulting in damage to a half-dozen or more, the hospital said. In addition, windows, lobby and roofing were damaged at the Cancer Institute.
“As a result of the heroic efforts of the Children’s Village staff, hospital associates and community first responders, all children and teachers were moved to safety in the radiation vault on the first floor of the Cancer Institute in the Pavilion,” the hospital said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
“They were later transported to Lenape Middle School to be reunited with their families. Four children were treated for minor injuries and released.”
Among those taking part in the rescue was Kevin Weber, of New Hope, a radiation therapist who works for Penn Medicine at the Cancer Institute.
“I was in the middle of treating a patient when I heard a very loud bang outside and then all of our power went out,” Weber said.
While working to shelter their patients inside their radiation vault, which is lined with led and concrete, staff learned from their director that several windows in the lobby had blown out, he said.
“We started to head to the emergency exit, which faces the day care center,” Weber said. It was then that they discovered the damage to Children’s Village, and while some staff stayed with their patients, Weber and two others ran to the day care center.
In addition to wanting to help the children, Weber, a former EMT, was concerned about his mother, Kathleen Weber, of New Hope, who works there. “I couldn’t remember if she was off or not,” he said.
Arriving at Children’s Village at about the same time as local police and firefighters, and employees of Doylestown Hospital – among them CEO Jim Brexler, Weber said – they worked together, forming a “human chain” to carry the children to safety.
“We decided to take everyone into our department and our vault because it was the closest,” Weber said.
When a teacher came running to report she hadn’t seen anyone from one of the classrooms, rescuers discovered it was blocked by the collapse of the hallway ceiling.
Weber said his mother used to teach in that classroom, so he knew there was a door that led from that classroom out to the playground on the other side of the building. He said he and a nurse ran around to the door, which had been ripped off its hinges by the wind.
All 14 children and their teacher were in the closet. None of them suffered any injuries. Outside, the playground equipment had been blown into the parking lot and some onto Route 611, Weber said.
Weber said he called his mother, a 10-year Children’s Village employee, after the rescue and discovered she was at home.
“Obviously it was a very chaotic situation,” Weber said, “but everything came together.” He said it was hard to believe there were no major injuries.
“There was a lot of great teamwork,” Weber added. “When you saw that building, everyone immediately ran (to help the children)."
Weber said a lot of the children’s parents work at Doylestown Hospital, and they came into the Cancer Institute to be with their children. “There were a lot of tears,” he said, “just a huge sense of relief.”
The hospital said it was assessing damage, and clean-up operations are underway throughout the campus. The emergency department, operating rooms and patient rooms remain in service.
“Bucks County EMS placed us on divert at the outset, but we quickly went off diversion,” the hospital said. “We expect the storm will disrupt some outpatient services. We continue to assess structural damage.”