Clean up continues after Va. Beach tornado

Severe storms blew through the Hampton Roads area on July 10, 2014 and damaged this Virginia Beach church. (WAVY/Aaron Kurtz)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Clean up continues in Virginia Beach after strong storms spawned an EF-0 tornado at the Oceanfront Thursday.

The National Weather Service has identified three areas in Virginia Beach where the storm hit the hardest. The tornado touched down around 17th Street and Pacific Avenue and took the third story off of a house. Straight-line winds caused damage on Laskin Road, near the Princess Anne Country Club, and pulled a steeple from atop a church near Pinewood Drive.

“It happened really, really quickly,” said Brittney Branch. “We were just all in the store, and then within a matter of seconds, it was raining. All of the sudden, it got really dark. That’s when I figured something wasn’t right.”

Branch works at 17th Street Sal’s Pizza and said she noticed something was wrong immediately after the storm. Across the street, the storm caused holes in the northwest side of the Dolphin Inn Hotel on Atlantic Avenue and blew out windows of the pool deck at the back of the building.

Debbie Hatcher of West Virginia, who was staying at the Dolphin Inn, said she arrived along with the storm.

“We got in the storm, and we kept thinking, ‘this is like a hurricane.’ The hail and everything, I mean, it was terrible,” Hatcher said. “By the time we got here, about 3:30, the fire trucks were pulling up and the firemen were coming around everywhere and looking at everything. We didn’t know what was going on.”

On Thursday, crews at the Dolphin Inn hotel on Atlantic Avenue were working to make needed repairs, but management said it’s not clear how long it will take to fix all the damage.

In the Shadowlawn community along Pinewood Drive, residents are dealing with uprooted trees, downed power lines and no power. Utility crews worked to repair the mangled wires and tree branches Thursday. Close by, along Norfolk Avenue, neighbors are coming to the aid of Beachlawn Baptist Church after the storm toppled it’s steeple and ripped away roof shingles and siding.

“We’re out here today trying to clean up and put things back together again,” said Dan McClanan, one of the church’s deacons.

The church bells still toll atop the steeple-less church. When it fell, Mclanan said it knocked a hole in the roof and caused interior damage as well as some structural damage to the roof. For now, crews put tarps over the roof.

Kenny Griebenow stopped by the church after learning of the damage on the news.

“I was really shocked to hear about the church steeple and how when it came down it went through the roof,” he said. “The deacon came on and said they had really good insurance and they’re going to have services this Sunday and people have been making donations and I think that’s wonderful.”

McClanan said neighbors have reached out to help and one lady left a check for the work to re-install the steeple. The church has insurance to cover most of the other repairs.

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