By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – National Weather Service officials in Wakefield confirmed a second tornado touched down in Dinwiddie last Friday during a bout of severe weather that rolled across the commonwealth during the day’s hours through the morning commute.
Thursday, weather officials said an EF-1 tornado was confirmed to have touched down in the northern portion of the county northwest of Sutherland.
Through information gathered by Dinwiddie’s emergency manager and the Virginia Department of Forestry, storm surveyors report the tornado “first touched down north of Rt. 460, to the west/northwest of Sutherland, then tracked north-northeast, ending near Namozine Rd.
While extensive damage to trees occurred along the tornado’s path, no damage to structures or injuries were reported.
According to weather officials, the Friday morning tornado near Sutherland carried estimated maximum wind speeds of 75 to 90 miles per hour during its 2.3 miles on the ground.
The Sutherland tornado is the second confirmed tornado within the county tied to the severe weather outbreak Friday morning.
Approximately three miles west of McKenney, surveyors found damage “consistent with an EF-1 tornado” that caused significant structural damage to a building in the area thanks to estimated maximum winds of 85 to 95 miles per hour.
“An EF-1 tornado first touched down in far northern Brunswick County, northwest of Rawlings off Baskerville Mill Road,” officials said in their report. “The tornado continued north-northeast into Dinwiddie County along Old White Oak Road.”
The tornado crossed Old White Oak road near Route 40, then continued north-northeast before a visible damage path ended just north of Lew Jones Road,” the report continued.
Officials with the weather service said surveyors found straight-line wind damage in the area of Gunns Road as well as Manson Church Road.
National Weather Service teams surveyed damage from around the area following a strong line of storms that triggered tornado warnings spanning from Dinwiddie through much of neighboring Chesterfield, along with severe thunderstorm warnings up and down the Interstate 95 corridor between the North Carolina-Virginia border and as far north as Northern Virginia.
Much of the area was under a tornado watch Friday morning due to the anticipated risk of severe weather.
By 8 a.m. Friday, much of the severe threat had diminished for the Dinwiddie area and the I-95 corridor, but the brunt of the weather occurred while students were in the process of, or about to be picked up for school in the county.
“It was probably one of the worst times imaginable to have a tornado,” remarked Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill. “You never want to be in a position where you are reacting to a storm of that nature while you had children on school buses and that’s when the training kicks in at the school system and bus garage, putting in safety protocols that I know they have practiced in the past.”
The severe storms prompted school officials in a number of localities, including Dinwiddie, to delay the start of classes or outright close for the day due to power outages.
Massengill said the county was aware conditions were favorable for severe weather that morning, particularly a threat for tornados through the watch issued across much of the area through the morning and that emergency officials were in close contact with the National Weather Service in Wakefield during the storms.
“We are very blessed to have an emergency management staff who is so very well connected to the National Weather Service in Wakefield,” he remarked, adding, “When the tornado warning was actually spotted in the McKenney area, there was not much notice to take shelter. We have become somewhat desensitized when we see these weather warnings or watches, but we really need everyone to be very vigilant.”
In the minutes after the tornado, members of the county’s emergency management team descended on the Route 40 corridor along with crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia State Police to assist in clean-up and assess the damage.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the emergency management staff, the sheriff’s office, the first responders,” Massengill said. “I think everyone took the necessary protocols that were in place and the training we have had in the past kicked in. The volunteers, everyone did a great job.”
For Massengill, he understands Friday’s storms could have been much worse for the Dinwiddie area if a tornado had touched down in the county’s more populated areas.
“A tornado like that along the River Road corridor with the number of houses in the area, it could have been a very different discussion,” he said. “When we hear warnings and watches, we want our citizens to take into considerations the guidelines they need to stay safe, like going into an interior room away from windows.”
Dinwiddie County does offer the CodeRED service, their county-to-resident notification system.
With this service, county leaders can quickly send personalized voice messages, text messages, emails and social media notifications to residents and businesses with specific information about time-sensitive or common-interest issues such as severe weather warnings, impending emergencies, emergency instructions and local community matters.
For those interested in signing up, you can visit http://dinwiddieva.us.