Governor surveys damage from deadly storms

The storms killed at least four people across the Commonwealth.

Gov. McAuliffe surveys the storm damage in Waverly, Va. on Feb. 25, 2016 (WAVY photo)

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — A line of severe storms ripped through the area Wednesday, bringing widespread damage to the region. Today, communities across the Commonwealth are looking to pick up the pieces from last night’s devastating weather.

Initial reports from the storms indicated that total of four people were killed across the state. Addressing the media Thursday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says a fifth death may have been storm-related.

He told members of the media the fifth death was a drowning.

Officials say the death is unconfirmed, but that there have been reports the victim drowned in the Shenandoah River.

McAuliffe made visited three areas affected by the storms Thursday, including Waverly, Appomattox and Essex.

A confirmed EF1 tornado touched ground in Waverly, where three people, all males, were confirmed dead, according to Virginia State Police.

Family members of the victims confirmed their names to 10 On Your Side’s Jason Marks Thursday: 26-year-old Devine Stringfield, 50-year-old Larry Turner and 2-year-old Ian Lewis.

Additional Coverage: Devastation in Waverly | Photos: Deadly tornado in Waverly

In Appomattox County, a fourth person was killed after his residence was destroyed by the reported funnel cloud that swept through the region of Evergreen and Red House. A total of seven people were injured in Appomattox.

In the Town of Tappahannock, at least 30 structures were damaged, with 15 of them destroyed. A total of 25 injuries are reported there, ranging from minor to serious. There were no confirmed fatalities.

Speaking in Appomattox Thursday, McAuliffe said, “We had the storm Jonas about a month ago … so we obviously are seeing these severe weather patterns that are occurring.”

McAuliffe said they believes a total of eight tornadoes touched ground in Virginia Wednesday. The National Weather Service said it is working to confirm the total number of tornadoes from the storms.

“To see these types tornadoes at the end of February is truly astounding.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe surveys damage from Wednesday's severe weather on Thursday, Feb. 25. Credit: Office of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe surveys damage from Wednesday’s severe weather on Thursday, Feb. 25. Credit: Office of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The Virginia National Guard says it has more than 40 soldiers on duty to help emergency response crews clear fallen trees and other debris.

Brig. Gen. Paul F. Griffin, director of the Virginia National Guard joint staff, said Thursday their initial plan was to provide support for Essex, Richmond, Westmoreland, Sussex and Patrick Counties.

The National Guard released photos and a video of soldiers working to clear debris in Essex.

The Virginia Region Red Cross has also responded to the rescue and clean-up effort following Wednesday’s weather. They have provided support Appomattox County Community Center shelter last night, and deployed emergency response vehicles to Appomattox, Sussex and Waverly.

The Red Cross says it is working around the clock to help people statewide who were affected.

The humanitarian group Operation Blessing says it has sent a small team to Waverly to help comfort those impacted by the storms.

Wednesday evening, McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in response to the severe weather event. Storms affected many regions of the state, including most of Hampton Roads.

Several viewers in Suffolk reported hail in the area around 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The entire Hampton Roads area was placed under a tornado warning several times throughout the afternoon and into the evening. A tornado watch was also issued for the entire region for much of Wednesday.

The threat of severe weather caused several area school districts to close or dismiss early Wednesday. During the afternoon tornado warning the following school districts announced they were sheltering in place until the warning expired in their cities: Hampton Public Schools, Newport News Schools, Williamsburg, York County and Suffolk Public Schools.  Keep track of the latest closings on air and online.

Photos: Extensive storm damage

There were power outages reported across the region. Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley-Harris said the Peninsula areas, Williamsburg, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach experienced the most outages.

Around 10 p.m. Wednesday, a total of 85,000 customers were impacted across Virginia and northern North Carolina. 32,000 customers had remained without power at 10 p.m. that night.

Power was completely restored to a vast majority of Hampton Roads after Thursday.

Several city offices were tweeting updates on damage reports throughout the evening.



The rain tapered off between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Wednesday. The high winds are forecast to stick around through Thursday as residents and crews look to being the clean-up effort.

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