Conventional wisdom disappears into the wind in two Virginia counties
Conventional wisdom that tornadoes do not occur here in the Virginia mountains was gone with the wind on Aug. 9 when 90-plus mph winds struck two communities about 7 miles and two mountain ranges apart.
While the F1 tornado itself was short-lived, the straight line winds and microburst that spawned it joined forces with winds in excess of 90 mph to fell many trees and damage some homes and buildings.
No deaths or injuries were reported from the storm.
The National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., reported the microburst began in Giles County with winds of 90-95 mph and covered an area of 0.5 miles, snapping trees and limbs.
Dave Wirt with the National Weather Service said a warning was issued about 45 minutes before the storm hit, giving people who heard it time to take appropriate action.
There is no way to know if many people in the rural areas were aware, however.
Wirt termed it “fantastic” that no one was hurt or killed.
“After producing the microburst in Giles County, the same supercell continued to push southward into Pulaski County where the storm reintensified and started producing straight-line wind damage, downing numerous trees and producing some minor structural damage that mainly involved shingle damage to homes, damage ended in in Eastern Hilton Village,” the weather service reported.
It had crossed both Big and Little Walker mountains before coming to ground.
The 90-95 mph straight-line winds covered cut a swathe 0.6 miles wide and 1.65 miles long.in Pulaski County.
As it moved into the Bella Vista section of the county an embedded tornado, lasting approximately a minute, developed, the weather service concluded after visiting the area. Its path was set at 0.25 miles long and 50 yards wide.
In Pulaski County, eight homes were damaged, Jonathan Sweet, county administrator, reported. He noted that over 10 outbuildings were destroyed, including a large equipment shed.
Wirt explained that the winds caught the weakest spots on building or large open structures such as the equipment shed doing their damage.
He said tighter buildings such as houses were not damaged.
Sweet noted that several vehicles were also damaged and said three were a total loss. He reported the loss of over 1,000 trees in his county.
“The county has previously experienced three categorical tornadoes since 2011 and with each event the community has come together to support their affected neighbors and help with the cleanup and healing process,” said.
“This fourth occurrence was no different, with our volunteer fire departments and volunteer cleanup crews partnering with County personnel to assist Virginia Department of Transportation and Appalachian Electric Power clear roadways, right-of-ways and driveways for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” he continued. “We are hoping that the size and isolated nature of this event will not have a detrimental impact on the greater farming community in the affected area of Pulaski County.”
Significant damage to one large cornfield on a dairy farm was visible from a nearby roadway but the acreage damaged is not available at this time.
Wirt confirmed that his agency used a drone over the field to look for the footprints of the storm.
Damage assessments were still underway late in the week as agencies and residents worked to clean up and repair the damage.
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