An unexpected tornado from a passing thunder storm generated a short rotation on Saturday afternoon between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m. as it passed through the Gladys/Red House area in Campbell County.
The county said “no injuries were reported with this storm, however, two structures and a camper have been reported as damaged, with multiple trees down and debris in the area.”
“Our teams will be meeting with the National Weather Service as soon as possible to assess the extent of the storm and to reach out to those who have structure damage,” stated Campbell County’s Director of Public Safety, Tracy Fairchild, on Saturday. “We are certainly thankful that no one was injured. As always, we encourage residents to be prepared for any severe weather during spring and summer months, as systems can change rapidly, as we’ve seen today.”
There were two damaged buildings and a number of trees knocked down along a four-mile path.
Videos posted on Facebook showed a rolling cone shaped cloud above the tree line coming down at least twice.
Seeds of Faith Farm on Tip Lane was hit hard in the tornado touchdown. Debbie Gagon was outside with her son when the dog started barking to warn them.
“Our God is amazing … this is my praise,” she said.
She and her son had been working in the high tunnel when the thunder started, and they left as the rotation was beginning.
“We saw and felt it. I was in the chicken house hunkering down, and my son made it to the house just as the winds picked up,” Gagon said. “We are fine — we lost our hay barn, our camper and our high tunnel. We have lots of trees down and damage to other structures. Our cows were up and were not hit by flying debris even though the fields are littered with tin and boards from the barn. We are grateful!”
The National Weather Service office in Blacksburg is calling it a “probable tornado” until they can conduct a track survey and gather more details.
There were also reports of trees down in nearby Appomattox County, but there were no more tornado sightings.
Public Safety said that the cluster of thunderstorms that moved over that area appeared disorganized, and no warning were in effect at the time.
Doppler radar, which detects the speed of raindrops within a storm, reported that “a weak but persistent whirl of rotation crossed over the areas that reported damage.”
The last time Campbell had a tornado was on April 15, 2018. That tornado, which began in the Timberlake area, reached EF-3 strength and injured a dozen people after it crossed Lynchburg and entered Amherst County. There was a lot of damage to businesses on Timberlake Road, some of which still has not been repaired yet.
There was another tornado Saturday around 6:52 p.m., touching down just north of downtown Suffolk, where it damaged at least 14 homes and six businesses in the area of Constance Road. The tornado then headed east and dissipated over the Great Dismal Swamp.
On Sunday, the National Weather Service in Wakefield said the path was two miles long and up to 200 yards wide after completing its damage survey.
It further stated that “ripped shingles, blown-in windows and snapped trees suggested winds of 85 to 90 mph, which rated it an EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.”
The parent thunderstorm blew in from Southampton County, where a severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect.
Rotation on its southern flank rapidly tightened up right as it crossed over Suffolk, and a tornado warning went out for the area at 6:51 p.m.
Tornado warnings continued into Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach as the storm moved east, though there were no additional reports of damage.
Suffolk’s most recent tornado hit on March 31, 2017, but it avoided populated areas.
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