‘Downburst’ storm downs trees, power lines

Published 11:26 pm Friday, August 23, 2019

Robbie Powell of Powell and Son spreads out a covering for the garage at the home of Jimand Jan Kay of Norfleet Street in Franklin. A large part of a tree next to the building broke off and smashed into both the roof and pickup truck. Thankfully, the house and residents were not affected. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News




Power lines and trees were knocked down when intense thunderstorms marched through Western Tidewater late Tuesday afternoon and into early evening.

We experienced not tornadoes but downbursts,” said Eswar Iyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield. Downbursts, he explained, are mainly straight line winds, whereas tornadoes go over a much smaller area, though it can be a long path.

Many residents, especially in Franklin, experienced not only temporary flooded streets, but also permanently damaged trees, several of which knocked into houses and vehicles. On Wednesday afternoon, Jim and Jan Kay of Norfleet Street were watching Robbie Powell of Powell and Son putting a temporary cover on the damaged garage roof around the corner on Lee Street.

The Kays, who have lived in their house since 1986, said they were home when the storm hit. They saw the rain blowing sideways.

That was a first for me. It was scary-looking, that’s for sure,” said Jan.

Jim said there had been plans to repaint the garage, but that’s on hold for now, adding, “Glad we waited.”

A few blocks over at Fourth Avenue and Charles Street, the crew of Old Oak Tree Service was tying cables to a large tree limb that fell on a corner house. Nobody is reportedly living there. Another smaller limb next to it had cut into the roof.

According to a neighbor, E.B. Knight, who was watching the crew, he heard the storm “howling like a train. It’s the first time I’ve been scared of a storm. In my 48 years I’ve never experienced a storm like that one.”


Lt. Tommy Potter, spokesman for the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, said the office had responded to call that power lines and trees in the Beaver Dam area of Carrsville in Southern Isle of Wight County. He added that the area near the Airway shopping center on Carrsville Highway had been likewise affected.

As of Thursday afternoon, some Carrsville Highway locations near Isle of Wight County were still without power. Mark Bly, director of Franklin Power & Light, estimated that the power lines that were downed along Carrsville Highway during Tuesday’s storm would be replaced, and power would be restored to the area, sometime later that afternoon, once a new conductor was installed.

Bly confirmed that as of Thursday afternoon, one store in the Airway Shopping Center, and Kingdom Community Church, which is next to the center, were still without power. He added on Friday that as of 10 a.m. that morning, electricity was restored. Also that morning, some cables were still hanging low to the ground at the Airway Center and Verizon crews were on-site.

Jessica Parr, manager of communications for Community Electric Cooperative, emailed the paper and stated, “Tuesday’s storm caused us about 180 outages and all members were restored around midnight. You can reference our outage map for future instances/storms at www.comelec.coop. Per our mutual aid agreement, we assisted Franklin Power & Light in the immediate wake of the storm.”

Don Robertson, Isle of Wight’s assistant county administrator and spokesman, said that the county is aware of at least two southern Isle of Wight homes having sustained minor damage from trees falling on them during the storm. He confirmed that there were temporary power outages throughout the southern end of the county on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Robertson added that the county’s public utility employees had worked through the night of the storm to transport and connect emergency bypass wastewater pumps because all six sewage pump houses in the southern end of the county were without power. The bypass pumps were disconnected on Wednesday and the sewer system itself sustained no damage, he said.

When asked how International Paper fared during Tuesday’s storm, Jenny Dixon, communications manager for the Franklin mill, said that IP was able to work safely through the storm-related issues Tuesday evening. She confirmed that the mill did not lose power and did not experience any significant damage as a result of the storm.

She added that the IP Employee Relief Fund is on standby to provide assistance. This was established during the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 to provide critical aid to disaster victims around the world.

As a public charity, the ERF’s primary focus is to support International Paper employees who are impacted by disaster and provide basic necessities and temporary relief to those in need,” Dixon said. “The company also matches employee contributions, making the most of employee generosity … Fortunately, no one has had to take advantage of it as a result of this week’s storm.”