By Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – Supervisors approved the declaration of a local emergency during their regular meeting late last month following a pair of tornadoes that touched down in the county, causing substantial damage during the brief time they were on the ground.
Dinwiddie’s Chief of Fire and EMS/EM Coordinator Dennis Hale made the recommendation to supervisors during their May meeting following the severe weather outbreak in the early morning hours of May 5, mainly due to the EF-1 tornado that touched down near McKenney.
According to Hale, the EF-1 tornado that was reported to produce max winds between 85 and 90 miles per hour touched down just west of McKenney around 6:40 a.m. that morning.
The tornado traveled for nearly three miles through the county, damaging ten homes, one business, and approximately 15 ancillary structures, causing an estimated $275,000 in damage.
A local state of emergency of declared following the storm, but that confirmation must be confirmed by the local governing body within 14 days.
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.
Following the initial survey, a second tornado of similar strength was reported and confirmed by weather officials near 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.
Earlier this month, County Administrator and Director of Emergency Management discussed the challenges that went into dealing with the severe weather outbreak that moved through the region as many schools were preparing to transport students to school.
“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.”
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.