A large tree came down during Tropical Storm Isaias, damaging the environmental center's roof and ceiling.

Isaias Damages Environmental Center on Tilghman Island

The damage could have been worse for most parts of the Chesapeake region, when Tropical Storm Isaias came straight up the coast. But for the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center on Tilghman Island, Isaias dealt the second of two blows in 2020.

The environmental center’s campus has been closed to the public for the last five months, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and all of its programs canceled. Then, on August 4, Tropical Storm Isaias brought heavy rain, big wind gusts, and an eye-popping total of 36 tornadoes to Maryland and Virginia. In Talbot County, the highest wind gust was clocked at 56 miles per hour.

A tree came crashing down on the Phillips Wharf Estuarium and classroom building, spaces that hold touch tanks and an aquarium as well as adult and student learning areas. Staff members were next door when the tree came down and were able to cut off power before the tree caused further problems. But the damage to the roof and ceiling have made it hazardous for staff to be inside.

Center Administrator Josh Poore tells Bay Bulletin that staff have been doing important work in the building, even while the center is closed.

“Our staff continues to utilize the classroom during our shutdown as we have maintained a few of our animals and we are still working hard on our oyster restoration programs,” Poore explains.

And the environmental center wants to be ready to go when the pandemic allows it to reopen. In a Facebook post, Phillips Wharf writes, “Repairs to this building are necessary for our staff to have a safe place to work and so that we can be ready to receive you and your families when it is safe to do so again.”

The center is asking for help to meet its $5,000 deductible and other expenses not covered by insurance to fix the damage. Anyone interested in making a donation can go to their fundraiser page at

When pandemic-related closures aren’t in effect, the five-acre waterfront campus offers year-round educational programs for students and adults, including a shellfish aquaculture training program. Its Fishmobile travels to schools and events in the region as Phillips Wharf’s marine science outreach program.

-Meg Walburn Viviano