NWS confirms twister

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WAKEFIELD, VA – The National Weather Service office here has confirmed what Roanoke-Chowan area residents basically knew…..Friday’s line of wicked thunderstorms did indeed produce a tornado.

Now for the good news….thankfully there were no injuries.

The News-Herald did learn on Monday, after viewing several photos snapped by local residents, that the “wall cloud” that possibly led to the eventual formation of a tornado in the Powellsville/Trap areas of Bertie County traced its origins to the Conway area of Northampton County.

In advance of the tornado touching down, hail, ranging from pea size to slightly smaller than the size of a baseball, pelted the local area….basically from the Millennium area, to Ahoskie, and then to Powellsville and Trap.

According to a report filed by the National Weather service, the Powellsville/Trap twister formed at around 6:15 p.m. less than a mile south of Powellsville off US 13. It was classified as a EF1 tornado with maximum wind speeds of 80 to 90 mph

“NWS storm survey determined that an EF1 tornado caused an intermittent damage path nearly five miles long and 50 to 100 yards wide,” the report stated. “Initial damage, mainly to trees, was see along and just west of Sally Freeman Road about a mile south of Powellsville.

The tornado tracked east-northeastward, crossing NC 42 near Rockpile Road where additional damage

to trees and a mobile home were seen,” the report added. “The path then continued to Quebec Road, north of NC 42, where multiple trees were downed, some farm buildings were damaged, and a mobile was overturned and destroyed.”

The report continued by saying that around 6:24 p.m., the twister weakened as it moved into the wooded area adjacent to the location of the damage mentioned above. The damage was most intense near the northeast end of the track.

“We had reports from two eyewitnesses that they saw what appeared to be a tornado,” Bertie County Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper said later Friday evening. “One individual saw trees snapping in a wooded area behind Powellsville Pet Clinic while another reported seeing a possible tornado on the Sally Freeman Road.”

Cooper said the following areas were affected:

Brown Road – unoccupied mobile home impacted;

600 block of Quebec Road – damage to farm shop and farm equipment;

300 block of Quebec Road – damage to unoccupied mobile home;

300 block of Quebec Road – occupied mobile home damaged; and

Sally Freeman Road – tree limbs and power lines downed.

The same weather system on Friday also dropped tornadoes north of the state line.

The NWS confirmed an EF1 twister two miles southeast of downtown Suffolk, VA between 5:33-to-5:57 p.m. The path of that tornado covered 12.5 miles and was 100 yards wide.

A number of trees were downed or snapped off, and one outbuilding was destroyed, according to the NWS report. The debris from that outbuilding damaged the adjacent house. The tornado crossed White Marsh Road where it entered the Great Dismal Swamp, and was no longer visible. 

The strongest tornado touched down on Green Run Road in Chesapeake, VA at 6:13 p.m. and continued on an eight-mile trek to Kempsville Road in Virginia Beach. The NWS classified this twister as an EF1 to EF2 with winds as high as 120 mph with a maximum width along its path at 350 yards.

As the tornado intensified over Virginia Beach, several homes lost sections of their roofs and outer walls were removed. It then destroyed a single wide mobile home (which was empty at the time, used as a work building) and severely damaged a metal storage building.

The tornado strengthened to an EF2 (120 mph) before striking the Real Life Christian Church on Centerville Turnpike. The church, a large metal constructed building, was destroyed by the tornado as the sanctuary was completely demolished.

The tornado weakened some as it continued to travel east, but eventually gained strength once again and caused damage to nearly 100 homes as well as destroying the club house and press box at the Landstown High School ball field. Several sets of bleachers were tossed well over 200 yards.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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