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A large garage in Deptford that collapsed. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.

This is the third chapter of a three-part series focusing on the Mullica Hill-Mantua Township-Wenonah-Deptford, NJ, EF3 Tornado of September 1, 2021. A section map depicting the location of various stories and EF-scale trends in intensity can be found below. To return to the overview page of this twister, click here.

EF Scale and Location Map

In the previous chapter, we followed the track from Gangemi Lane through several subdivisions, across the Walling Farm, and finally to Heritage Road. This is where we now pick up the story. At 6:24 pm EDT, the twister crossed Main Street in the southeastern fringe of Mantua Township. It left numerous downed trees and minor roofing damage across several dozen homes. It crossed Mantua Boulevard about a mile north-northeast.

Downed trees blocking Mantua Boulevard. Image from the NWS Mount Holly.

The Delaware Valley Floral Group took a significant hit due to the storm. Estimates for the costs inflicted here were about $5 million. Some of the damage caused can be seen below. Despite the setback, the owner seemed optimistic about their ability to recover. In a September 18, 2021 article from the South Jersey Times, she stated, “In the grand scheme of things, I’d say we did great. No one got hurt. Everybody went home… We’re able to still operate.”

Damage to a greenhouse-type structure at the Delaware Valley Floral Group. Image from the NWS Mount Holly.

A swath of trees was blown down across Mantua Creek as the twister churned directly into Wenonah. Hundreds of homes were enveloped by damaging winds that removed bits of roofing and toppled trees onto structures, cars, and roads. So many were uprooted that sidewalks and curbs were damaged. The Tricia Sloan Dance Center, M velour Salon, Ananda Yoga + Wellness, United States Postal Service, Wenonah Train Station, Hawk’s Corner Deli, Chompskys, and Wenonah Fire Department were all affected within the vicinity of West Mantua Avenue. A handful of buildings suffered more serious structural damage. It is important to note that many of the residences here are historic and centuries old. A notable example is the Stone House Inn. The 248-year-old structure was built in 1773 and used by patriots as a meeting place during the Revolutionary War. Fortunately, in this case it appeared that damage was limited to shingle loss and portions of trees left on the roof.

Downed trees along Mantua Creek. Image provided by NJDrone.
The damage path stretching into Wenonah. Image provided by NJDrone.
Substantial damage in Wenonah. Image provided by NJDrone.
Images stitched together to provide a view of the swath through Wenonah. The Stone House Inn is labeled at left. Images provided by NJDrone.
A number of trucks removing debris in Wenonah. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
An example of a historical home that sustained damage. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
A very old addition to this structure that collapsed. Image from the NWS Mount Holly.

Emily Martin is a member of the Rowan College of South Jersey-Gloucester women’s soccer team. That night, the group was eating a pasta dinner at her teammate’s (Ella Van Dine’s) Wenonah home to form some meaningful bonds that in the past they had struggled to create. In an October 12, 2021 article from The Star Ledger, she recounted what happened next.

“The lights started to flicker and we were like, ‘OK, maybe we should go down (to the basement). I wanted to see how my parents felt about it because usually they’re not alarmists, and they were still sitting in the kitchen. But then we were walking down the hallway and my ears started to pop. You just saw the window get real dark and then the windows started crashing. It was scary. I was one of the ones when we got the alert on our phones who stayed upstairs. I was like, ‘Guys, we’re in Jersey, it’s just some thunder.’ I was sitting there doing some homework but once you heard the windows shattering, it hit you that it was really happening and it was serious. It flipped a switch and everyone kicked into survival mode, just sprinting down to the basement. Ella’s parents were huddling over all of us. They did a great job of handling that situation with all of the girls they were responsible for.”

Some of the cars the players had taken there were totaled, primarily by fallen trees. Part of the roof had come off of the home, and there was no tarp big enough to cover it all. They resorted to using buckets to try and mitigate the water damage. Fortunately, most of the Van Dine family’s belongings were salvageable, and they believed the house should take six months to a year to repair.

The home at top right with significant roof damage is the Van Dine residence. Image provided by NJDrone.

That fateful night did bring the team far closer together, but it wasn’t the pasta dinner that fostered greater companionship. “I think before that team-bonding party — which was just a day before our season opener — we were all a little skeptical of each other,” Emily stated. “I don’t know if that was from COVID and a lack of socialization or whatever it was, but we just weren’t connecting. We’d show up to practice and then everyone just went off and did their own thing. Almost dying together really brings a bond out of it. Now I feel like we’re a lot more open with each other. If someone is having a problem whether it’s with soccer or at home, we’re all there to help each other.”

The Star Ledger ended the article with this quote from Ella Van Dine. “I’m just thankful that no one got hurt. I always think there’s a reason everything happens. Maybe it hasn’t come up yet, but I feel like something good always comes out of something bad.”

The next-door neighbors to the south of the Van Dines were Monica and Bill Schramm. The storm came too fast for them to realize what was happening. In a September 18, 2021 article from the South Jersey Times, Monica stated, “It was a churning of energy, ripping the trees with it and just going forward,” she said. “I just watched it go right past. I heard the cracks of the trees. I should have been worried, but I wasn’t, because I was in shock.” The 1883 home lost some of its roof, chimney, fencing, and outdoor furniture. One of the saddest losses for the area in general was the old, beautiful ceiling of trees, which Bill noted were an important staple of the town. There were also water and sewer lines broken by the uprooted stumps.

A view of the damage to the Van Dine and Schramm residences. Image provided by NJDrone.
One example of the damage uprooted stumps caused in the area. In this case, a sidewalk was torn out. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.

The twister continued through numerous neighborhoods, picking apart the canopy of vegetation and blowing it onto anything and everything below. Dawn Carter was in the kitchen of her Hammond Avenue home when she lost power. Carter told NJ.com, “Everything got real silent and I heard what sounded like a train coming. My house started to shake and it just got louder. It sounded like a freight train ran over my house.” She and her cat made it to the basement in the nick of time. A large oak tree landed on the home. Her garage was crushed. “It was so scary. You don’t think it’s going to ever happen to you.”

A home that was damaged along Glassboro Road near Dawn’s location. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
Snapped and partially delimbed trees along Glassboro Road. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.

The tornado passed through a corner of Woodbury Heights, then over Tanyard Road into a Deptford neighborhood. Several residences were irreparably damaged, both by wind and falling trunks. The video below shows the twister near its weakest point.

Two homes with substantial damage in Woodbury Heights. Image from the NWS Mount Holly.
Crews restoring power in Deptford. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
A home in Deptford that was destroyed. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
A house in Deptford that was crushed by a fallen tree. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.

Cheryl McCormick received a text from her neighbor as the tornado was racing toward their homes. “She had texted me and said ‘Wave to me, I’m in the bay window. I’m scared,’” McCormick told NJ.com. “As soon as she said that, that’s when all hell broke loose.” Cheryl could see debris flying through the air. She rushed to the basement with her two kids and three other adults. Her frantic neighbor who had texted was trying to get to the bathroom with her dogs when the tornado hit the residence. “She actually was sucked through her house,” McCormick stated. “The next thing she remembered, she was laying between her couch and her coffee table, and her face was full of blood.” Cheryl’s neighbor lost the front wall of the home, including the bay window she had been waving from just minutes earlier. Per NJ.com, the neighbor went to the hospital. She had a concussion and several cuts and bruises. Cheryl’s residence suffered little damage, but sadly her sweet neighbor’s home has been condemned.

The tarped over blown out wall in a residence belonging to Cheryl’s neighbor. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.

The path became more difficult to follow after leaving the neighborhood behind. It weakened to a minimal tornado, with a diameter of just 220 yards (0.12 miles). Trees were still sporadically uprooted across the path. Some siding was removed from at least one structure at Narraticon Apartments. Minor roofing damage may have occurred to a couple of businesses along Delsea Drive and up through a few more neighborhoods. The last discernible tornadic damage of this nature was along Aerial Drive. The tornado dissipated here just south of the NJ Turnpike, 1.2 miles north of Deptford, at 6:32 pm EDT. This ended a 16 minute and 12.02-mile-long path of damage through Gloucester County. The video below shows the dissipation of the twister from a traffic camera.

Removal of siding at Narraticon Apartments. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
Two sheds that were damaged on the north side of Cooper Street. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.
A business that sustained minor damage on Delsea Drive. Photo taken by Nelson Tucker.

Sources:

Damage Assessment Toolkit

NCDC Storm Events Database Entry-Gloucester County

NWS Mount Holy Event Page

Google Earth

Google Maps

Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Browser

Geospatial Intelligence Consortium Gray Sky Imagery

Gloucester County Office of Emergency Management on ArcGIS

Gloucester County, NJ, Historical Sites

Jen Narramore

Cosentino, Matt. “Surviving tornado together brought New Jersey college soccer team closer.” Star-Ledger, The: Web Edition Articles (Newark, NJ), sec. Highschoolsports, 12 Oct. 2021 (online NewsBank).

Gray, Matt. “As rare EF-3 tornado hit, N.J. woman ‘was sucked through her house.’” Penn Live Patriot News, 4 Sep 2021. https://www.pennlive.com/weather/2021/09/as-rare-ef-3-tornado-hit-nj-woman-was-sucked-through-her-house.html

Gray, Matt. “As towns recover from tornado, hundreds seek assistance from FEMA.” South Jersey Times (NJ), SJBD Main ed., sec. A, 18 Sep. 2021, p. 001 (online NewsBank).

Gray, Matt. “Costs Exceed $64m for Mega Tornado That Ripped through N.J. County during Ida.” NJ.com, 29 Oct. 2021. https://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/2021/10/costs-exceed-64m-for-mega-tornado-that-ripped-through-nj-county-during-ida.html

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