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Tornado confirmed
Twister touched down in southeast part of county
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Bill Martin of Martinsville stands in front of a large oak tree that was blown over in Wednesday night’s storm. The tree, which Martin estimated at more than 100 years old, damaged the residence shown on the left. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down in the Aiken Summit area of Henry County early Wednesday.

The tornado began near Aiken Summit in southeastern Henry County between 12:14 and 12:23 Wednesday morning, the weather service stated Wednesday night.

According to its preliminary investigation, the tornado touched down on Irisburg Road and was intermittently on the ground for 5.4 miles as it traveled northeast before lifting on Peach Orchard Road in Pittsylvania County, the weather service stated.

The damage width was about 100 yards where the tornado touched down, and it grew to about 200 yards wide when it lifted, the weather service added.

Several trees were damaged or snapped, and five outbuildings were damaged, the NWS stated. Three homes received minor damage but there were not fatalities, it added.

The tornado was rated an EFO, meaning its maximum wind speed was 85 mph, NWS reported. That is the lowest level on the EF-Scale rating.

The strong winds and tornado resulted from a record-setting area of low pressure, according to NWS meteorologist Marc Chenard.

"Some of the storms with the strongest rotation were near Cascade, about 4 or 5 miles south or southeast of Axton" near the Pittsylvania County/Henry County line, Chenard said Wednesday afternoon.

Other areas that suffered significant storm damage included Stokes County, N.C., which also borders Henry County, and Halifax County, he said.

After surveying the site, NWS officials confirmed that a tornado touched down in King, in southern Stokes County, according to NWS meteorologist Phil Hysell. No fatalities were reported.

Hysell said the tornado's wind speeds were estimated at 100 miles per hour.

The weather service office in Blacksburg began receiving storm damage reports from law enforcement and public safety authorities at midnight Wednesday, according to the NWS website.

Most of the reports from Henry County were of downed trees, the website showed.

"We had a lot of wind and a lot of tree damage," said Dale Wagoner, Henry County's director of public safety.

Appalachian Power Co. officials could not be reached for comment, but no areas in Henry County were included in an online map of power failures Wednesday evening.

Bob Phillips, emergency services coordinator in Martinsville, said there was limited damage in the city.

There were, however, some power failures due to the storm, according to Leon Towarnicki, director of public works and assistant city manager.

An outage was reported around 8 a.m. Wednesday in the 1300 block of Chatham Road, Towarnicki said. It was caused by a broken pole.

Early Wednesday afternoon, a tree fell onto an electric line on Hairston Street, he said. That also was related to the severe weather.

Other outages occurred Wednesday in the areas of Albert Harris Elementary School, along Memorial Boulevard and south of the city, he said.

"I speculate those outages were tree-related," with winds on Wednesday prompting trees to fall and hit power lines, Towarnicki said.

Most, if not all, electric power was restored by Wednesday afternoon.

"Based on what we were seeing on the weather (Tuesday) night," Towarnicki said storm damage "absolutely could have been much worse."�

Around 8 p.m. Wednesday, the weather service issued another a tornado warning for southern Henry County. It expired at 8:45 p.m. and then was reissued until 9:45 p.m.

No tornadoes were reported, according to the weather service. NWS meteorologist Phil Manuel said the thunderstorms that prompted the warning had moved into the Piedmont area of North Carolina and the Tidewater area of Virginia by 10 p.m.

However, a flash flood warning for southeastern Henry and Pittsylvania counties was to be in effect until 2:15 this morning.

Manuel said late Wednesday that flooding had been reported in Stoneville, N.C., and a river flood warning had been issued for the Dan River downstream of Danville, especially in South Boston.

During the past two days, a weather observer in Meadows of Dan recorded 3.2 inches of rain, Manuel said, adding that water will run down into the Smith, Dan and other rivers and cause them to rise.

Hysell said conditions are expected to improve and temperatures to fall a bit. There is a 20 percent chance of rain today with the high expected to be in the mid-70s. Friday is expected to be sunny and about 10 degrees cooler, he said.

 

 
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