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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Strong winds topple trees, cut electricity
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Winds toppled a tree onto this Collinsville home Wednesday. On Thursday, Spencer’s Tree Service was called to remove it. A Spencer’s representative said the service had numerous calls after Wednesday’s strong winds. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Friday, March 14, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Jennifer Priddy kept a smile on her face Thursday, despite high winds having toppled a tree onto her Collinsville home the previous night.

The tree fell onto the bedroom of Priddy’s daughter, Cherice Hairston. Pieces of the collapsed roof covered virtually everything inside the room on Thursday afternoon. A ceiling fan was suspended just above the bed.

Cherice is “very upset,” Priddy said, because basically “she lost everything” she owned.

Priddy said she is jobless and has no renter’s insurance, so she does not know how she will replace her daughter’s belongings.

She could be upset, too. Instead, she knows she has a lot to be thankful for.

Nobody was injured because no one was home when the tree fell Wednesday night. A neighbor called Priddy to tell her about the tree, and she got home 20 minutes later, finding a disaster that she never envisioned happening to her family.

“I’m glad she wasn’t at home, laying in bed” when the tree crashed, Priddy said of Cherice, a student at Patrick Henry Community College.

The family’s landlord, Jimmy Hale Jr., is paying for Cherice as well as Priddy and her other daughter, Kayla Hairston, a Bassett High School student, to stay at a local motel.

Hale hopes the damage can be repaired in a few days.

Priddy is “a good tenant ... so it’s worth the expense” to pay for their lodging, he said.

Priddy hugged him shortly after he made that comment.

She is taking the incident in stride.

Basically, “all you can do is laugh right now,” Priddy said.

Spencer’s Tree Service was removing the fallen tree Thursday afternoon. A representative of the firm, Glen Martin, said Spencer’s was getting a lot of calls from people with tree problems due to high winds.

Sustained winds on Wednesday night were as high as 28 mph with gusts up to 44 mph. Winds on Thursday subsided although they remained strong, with sustained winds of up to 18 mph with gusts up to 29 mph, data collected by National Weather Service instruments at the Blue Ridge Airport showed.

The weather service placed the area under a “wind advisory” until about 4 a.m. Thursday due to the likelihood of extremely high winds. The area then was placed under a “red flag warning” until 6 p.m. The warning meant that dry, windy conditions with low humidity significantly enhanced the potential for wildfires because winds quickly dried up rain that fell Wednesday.

High winds led to power failures throughout Henry and Patrick counties and Martinsville.

At 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Appalachian Power (APCo) reported that 1,059 customers in Henry County and 567 customers in Patrick County had lost power. In Henry County, the outages had risen to 1,078 as of Thursday morning, according to a company website.

John Shepelwich, APCo’s state corporate communications manager, said the largest local outage was around Foxfire Road in the Dyers Store area, where about 615 customers were without power Thursday afternoon.

Smaller outages occurred in the West Bassett, Stanleytown and Ridgeway areas, Shepelwich said.

As of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, electricity was fully restored, APCo’s website showed.

Most of the power failures were due to “trees, branches and other debris,” such as plastic and sheet metal items, “flying into the (power) lines” as a result of the high winds, Shepelwich said.

Martinsville Utilities Director Dennis Bowles estimated that about 100 city electric department customers in the Rivermont Heights, Edwards Street, Orchard Street, Spruce Street and Mulberry Road areas lost electricity Wednesday night due to fallen trees and limbs.

All the power was restored by 9:48 p.m. Wednesday, Bowles said, adding that he knew of no outages in the city on Thursday.

Winds ripped off part of an awning at The Artisan Center on West Church Street on Wednesday.

Kim Buck, coordinator of community development programs for Patrick Henry Community College which runs the center, did not have a damage estimate. She said, however, that a local sign company determined the awning can be repaired, so the college plans to get it fixed.

Henry County Public Safety Director Rodney Howell said he understood that a few trees fell countywide, including one that fell onto a mobile home on Blackberry Road.

Overall, “I think we were very lucky,” Howell said, in that winds could have caused more damage than they did.


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