Severe Storms, Tornadoes Cause Damage; Touchdown Confirmed in Lynchburg area, Danville, Craig County

Apr 15, 2018

Damage near Elon in Amherst County
Credit Virginia State Police

Tornadoes caused significant damage and some injuries across southern and central Virginia Sunday evening.

Governor Ralph Northam declared a State of Emergency Monday morning.  A tweet from Northam's office says the declaration will help mobilize resources to deal with Sunday's storm damage.

Danville and Pittsylvania County were the first Virginia locations to see damage from Sunday's severe weather.  Danville's city manager declared a local emergency after  the storms caused significant damage in the Riverside Drive area and knocked out power to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 homes.  A social media update from the city Sunday night said outages may last into Tuesday.

Storm damage near Elon in Amherst County
Credit Virginia State Police

As the storms moved north and east, another possible tornado hit the Lynchburg area.  Several businesses were damaged in the Timberlake Road area of Campbell County, just outside the city.  Virginia State Police reported heavy damage a little farther north in the Elon area of Amherst County. In a tweet Sunday evening, a state police spokesperson said several minor injuries had been reported but no deaths.  A Lynchburg police officer was hurt when he was hit by a car while directing traffic Sunday night.  A statement from the police department Monday morning said Officer James Goggins is hospitalized with injuries that are described as "not life-threatening."

Many schools in the Lynchburg area are closed Monday.  The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Monelison Middle School in Madison Heights.  It closed Monday afternoon.  Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg also opened as a shelter, according to tweets from the Red Cross and the church's pastor.

A tweet from the City of Lynchburg Monday morning said the city has received numerous offers of volunteers to help with cleanup.  Officials are asking volunteers to wait until all downed power lines are cleaned up.

Amherst County Public Safety Director Gary Roakes made the same request during a news conference Monday morning.  Roakes said a flood of volunteers would only slow down the damage assessment and cleanup process.  Roakes said about 20 structures in the county were destroyed and more damaged. The most severe damage was centered around Elon.  Roakes said there were no reports of missing people and law enforcement had conducted multiple sweeps of damaged buildings to make sure no one was trapped.  County Administrator Dean Rodgers saw the damage first-hand Monday. "Some houses are just gone," Rodgers said.  "There’s a foundation.  There might be a roof nearby but everything else is spread across the neighborhood.  And then there are some houses that just have a few holes in them and parts of siding torn off.  So it’s really strange the way tornadoes do that."  Amherst County officials will hold a public information meeting Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. at Elon Baptist Church (145 Younger Drive).

A statement from Campbell County emergency officials reported 15 to 20 businesses in the Timberlake Road area were damaged.  A handful of homes were also damaged.  No injuries from the storm were reported in Campbell County, despite the fact that it's the most populated area of the county according to spokesperson Sherry Harding. "We are very grateful," Harding said Monday.  "We are very blessed that there were no transportable injuries.  That means nobody had to be transported to the hospital because of this storm."

Appalachian Power reported more than 15,000 power outages as of midday Monday, mostly centered around Lynchburg.  The utility said crews were still assessing damage.  They hope to have power restored to all but the most heavily damaged neighborhoods by late Wednesday night.

Jeff Stern, state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, tweeted that State Police, Department of Forestry and VDEM resources were working to assist with damage in Craig County, Lynchburg, Danville and other locations.

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service  surveyed damage to determine if tornadoes were, indeed, the cause.  Late Monday afternoon, they did confirm an EF1 strength tornado touched down in Craig County.  The twister hit about four miles from New Castle and was on the ground for less than a minute.  It damaged six homes and several vehicles. 

Monday night, meteorologists confirmed an EF2 strength tornado hit Campbell County, Lynchburg and Amherst County.   The tornado was on the ground for more than 20 miles and caused about a dozen injuries.  After more review, meteorologists Wednesday increased the estimated strength of the tornado to EF3, with estimated winds of 150 miles per hour.

Tuesday night, meteorologists confirmed an EF1 strength tornado hit Danville and Pittsylvania County.   It was on the ground for about 16 minutes and traveled 12 miles, damaging mostly trees and outbuildings.

Earlier Sunday, severe storms and suspected tornadoes caused significant damage in Greensboro, North Carolina.  One person was killed there and a state of emergency was in effect Sunday night, according to the Associated Press.  Monday evening, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Rockingham County, North Carolina. The EF1 strength twister was on the ground for about 17 miles and caused hurt seven people.