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Powerful storm roars through Fredericksburg area

A powerful storm that roared through the Fredericksburg region Friday night toppled countless trees, caused widespread damage and knocked out power to more than 20,000 households.

The strong winds ripped roofs from multiple buildings, evoking painful memories of a storm last summer that area residents would prefer to forget—the derecho.

John Walsh, Fredericksburg code official, viewed the extensive damage to apartments at the Commons at Cowan Boulevard.

“It’s looking like a microburst; The roof [came] off two units,” he said.

Six apartments were damaged, but only four were occupied, according to those at the scene. The Red Cross has been called to assist the families.

The high winds also knocked down pine trees near the entrance of the complex, leaving the roots exposed.

The Monticello Apartments, across from Hugh Mercer Elementary and adjacent to the Commons complex, also had serious damage to its roof, said Natatia Bledsoe with the Fredericksburg Police Department.

No injuries had been reported.

At one point last night, Fredericksburg authorities were working their way through more than 50 pending calls for downed trees, downed lines and other storm-related issues.

In Spotsylvania County, winds from the storm tore off a section of roof at the Motel 6 near Four-Mile Fork. Guests had to leave their rooms while the damage was assessed.

And on Tidewater Trail, a resident reported that a line of power poles fell like dominoes near Slaughter Pen Farm.

In Stafford County, Mark Doyle, assistant chief of the Fire and Rescue Department, said the brief but powerful storm led to a flurry of emergency calls on Friday evening.

“We’ve got trees into houses, trees into buildings, trees across roads,” he said.

Stafford firefighters also battled a house fire as night fell, possibly due to a lightning strike, he said. The cause is under investigation.

Doyle said power outages were concentrated in the southern end of the county, especially along the U.S. 17 corridor.

He said the rapid damage done during Friday’s storm seemed similar to the derecho last July.

“That’s what it reminded me of,” Doyle said.

Kevin Witt of the National Weather Service in Sterling said last night that he didn’t have any indications that the damage came from anything other than a severe line of thunderstorms, though.

Top wind speeds for the Fredericksburg region ranged from 30 to 50 mph, he said.

The winds knocked down multiple trees along the CSX rail both north and south of the Leeland Road Virginia Railway Express station, causing delays for homebound commuters.

In Stafford’s Hartwood area, Kiki Kochel was sitting at home, listening to the lightning and thunder Friday night.

“Next thing we know, we heard a loud thud and the whole house shook,” she said.

One of the family’s beautiful old oak trees had come slamming through the back part of the house, into a bedroom and bathroom.

“We grabbed the phone, ran for the basement and called 911,” said Kochel, adding that she was grateful no one was hurt.

The family’s insurance company said it might not be able to send a representative to their home until late next week. But friends have offered to come over today to help them clean up the mess.

Ironically, Kochel said, her home is usually one of the first to lose power during a bad storm, but the lights stayed on last night.

“This time, we kept power—but we have a tree,” she said.