A tornado that caused heavy damage to buildings in an area of Sussex has been upgraded to a more severe EF-2 by the National Weather Service.
The Laurel Fire Department reported clean-up and recovery operations are underway in the Laurel area Monday afternoon following a confirmed tornado and severe storms overnight.
The storms left at least nine buildings severely damaged and more than 350 households and businesses without power.
Western Sussex County was hit along the US Route 9 corridor in an area from Portsville to Hardscrabble, as an intense line of thunderstorms rolled through the region during the early morning hours on Monday.
As many as two dozen structures were damaged during the severe weather, with roofs damaged, trees toppled, and utility poles snapped, the department reported.
The nine structures – seven houses and two commercial buildings – have been deemed unsafe for occupation by the Sussex County Technical Rescue team, which spent the day surveying and evaluating the damage.
One person suffered minor injuries from the storm.
The National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J., has made a preliminary confirmation that a tornado rated as an EF-1 with winds of approximately 95 mph traveled for just over six miles, carving a path of destruction that measured 50 yards wide in some spots. The weather service will continue to evaluate data before making a final determination.
The Laurel Fire Department is coordinating the ongoing emergency response with first responders, government agencies, public utilities, and other disaster response teams.
The department asked the public to be aware of ongoing operations to restore power, clear roads, and assist affected residents in the hours ahead.
Road and highways, including portions of Seaford Road (US 13A), Camp Road, and one of the southbound lanes of Sussex Highway (US 13), remain closed this afternoon as cleanup and restoration work continues. Motorists should follow posted detours and avoid travel in these areas if at all possible.
Meantime, Delmarva Power reports that approximately 350 customers in the Laurel area are without service as of 3 p.m. Monday, with nearly 50 crew members expected to work around the clock to replace downed poles and lines. Service, though, could remain out to some customers through noon Tuesday.
Delaware Electric Cooperative, which also serves the area, expected to have power restored by noon on Monday.
The American Red Cross is assisting those families and property owners affected by the storm.