The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Cleanup continues after Spotsylvania storm
RELATED: Winds smash buildings
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Though both weather phenomena produce severe winds, the difference is their direction—a tornado rotates while a microburst is straight winds that descend from a storm. “It rushes down to ground and spreads out,” said meteorologist Kevin Witt.
And rather than traveling along a path, a microburst is confined to a small area, such as the several blocks between Lafayette Boulevard and U.S. 1. But though tornadoes carry the bad image, microbursts can be just as damaging and much more common.
(Update 4:32 p.m.) Man keeps positive attitude
The day after his house was destroyed in the storm, John Bettis is keeping a positive attitude.
“We’re doing real good,” he said Monday morning, as he and his family carefully pulled items from the house.
“It’s so dangerous in there,” he said.
The Bettises house was moved about 10 feet off its foundation and much of the debris from the Cheer Fusion Gym next door landed on their roof.
John and Pam Bettis were inside during the storm, on the other side of the house.
The living room, the kitchen, the utility room and two bathrooms were all ruined.
“It’s going to be a big job cleaning up,” Bettis said.
- Robyn Sidersky
Fortunately, the business had only water damage, and it is still able to operate, said owner Kenny Blaney.
Blaney said the business has been in the building only about six months, but has been operating for three years.
They were not in their storefront at the time of the storm.
None of the company’s limousines or other vehicles was damaged in the storm.
A nearby business wasn’t as fortunate. Jennifer Watson and her family have been customers of Crystal Smith’s for about 10 years.
Watson said her husband first met Smith when she worked at Hair Cuttery, then followed her to another salon and again when she opened SetN Trendz about two years ago.
“When she opened her new salon she put in extra touches,” Watson said.
The salon was one of the businesses in Fleming Center destroyed by Sunday’s storm.
Watson was sad to hear the news.
“Her dream came true of having this business and it got destroyed.”
- Robyn Sidersky
(UPDATE: 3:23 p.m.) Spotswood Estates sustains heavy damage
The sound of chainsaws revving up was common in the Spotswood Estates subdivision in Spotsylvania Monday.
The area appeared to be the second-worst hit, only after Fleming Street where two buildings collapsed and several were damaged as a result of Sunday’s storms.
On Mahogany Lane, Peggy Labbe and her husband lost three trees in their front yard. Labbe was home by herself during the storm and said her husband was on the way home.
She was in the kitchen preparing dinner when the storm began. She figured it would be a safe place to stay, since it was near the back of the house and all the trees there had been taken out in a hurricane.
“The wind was loud, I just heard a thump,” she said. “I thought a branch hit the top.” But through the kitchen, she saw one of the giant oak trees crack and topple over.
One of the trees landed on the roof of the house, but did not crash through. “Water was coming through our lights, but the ceiling didn’t collapse,” she said.
Just a block over on Jonquil Court, Daniel and Rebecca Webster were cleaning up their driveway Monday morning after trees fell and crushed the couple’s Jeeps.
The couple, Daniel’s mother, and their 2-year-old son were all home when the storm came through. They were in the garage until Rebecca herded them into the house.
“We saw it knock the tree over and smash our Jeeps,” Daniel Webster said.
They had spent most of Saturday and Sunday moving into the house on Jonquil from another one just two blocks over, he said.
Most of the things in the couple’s yard, including many of their son’s toys, their bikes and three-wheelers and patio furniture were damaged.
Webster, a Marine who works at Quantico, moves frequently, depending on where he is stationed.
This isn’t the first time the family’s been through a natural disaster.
When they lived in 29 Palms, Calif., they were victims of a mudslide.
- Robyn Sidersky
Updated 12:40 p.m. – “Microburst” or “Tornado?”
As the NWS assesses the damage in Four-Mile Fork today, we’re wondering, so what is a microburst and how is that different than a tornado? We asked Chris White, fredericksburg.com’s former weather blogger:
A microburst is a downdraft from a thunderstorm that officially is less than two miles wide with peak winds that last less than 5 minutes. The downdraft occurs as a result of heavy rain falling from the storm that drags down a large volume of air with it, creating an outflow of straight line winds. Strong storms that don’t have a lot of directional wind shear (i.e. turning of the wind direction as height above ground increases) are susceptible to creating such downdrafts, and yesterday’s weather conditions did not have much shear. Damage from these straight line winds can be extensive but is usually in a pattern that diverges from a central point. (See these photos for differences in tornado damage vs. microburst damage patterns.)
On the other hand a tornado is associated with a rotating storm which must have significant wind shear present. Such storms typically have strong winds flowing into the storm at low levels (vs. outflow like a microburst situation). The wind field around a tornado’s visible funnel can actually be rising toward the cloud base, and the stronger the tornado the further this wind field can extend away from the funnel. Damage is still caused by the strong winds around a tornado, but the pattern is different from a microburst (see above link for comparisons).
This difference in damage patterns is what the National Weather Service survey team will be looking for to determine whether it was a microburst or a tornado. They’ve got a tough job…
Updated 11:30 a.m. - Today, representatives from the National Weather Service will study the damage from last night’s storm to determine what actually happened.
Staff from the Sterling office will visit the Four-Mile Fork area, just south of Fredericksburg, said Carrie Suffern of the NWS. But as of now, it’s too early to tell if a tornado touched down during the storm, or if it was some other type of weather phenomenon, she said.
Between 5:30 p.m. and 5:40 p.m., NWS received several reports about uprooted and downed trees, structural collapses and hail between 1 inch and 1.75 inches. NWS will combine those detailed reports with photos on a map to track the storm.
A decision about whether a tornado hit the area could come in the next day or so, Suffern said.
– Katie Thisdell
A FEW POCKETS OF AREA REMAIN WITHOUT POWER
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative has about 144 customers who still do not have power this morning as of 10 a.m.
Immediately after the afternoon storm, about 8,500 REC customers in Culpeper, Caroline, Essex and King William counties lost power, said spokesman Brian Wolfe.
“We had broken poles and a lot of tree damage,” said Rhonda F. Curtis, REC’s manager of cooperative communications. “These storms were sudden and intense, causing a lot of wind damage in the areas they moved through. Crews worked through the night to restore power and will continue to do so until all power is restored.”
Dominion Virginia Power has an estimated 924 customers without power this morning in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania.
STORM HITS PORT ROYAL
The Port Royal area of Caroline County also was hit by a severe storm Thursday afternoon that downed trees and power lines. The stoplight at the intersection of U.S. 17 and U.S. 301 was down for a time, but county officials said it is working again.
A county building officials said trees fell on two houses, but the damage was minor. A few metal roofs were peeled off of some out buildings near the 17/301 intersection.