Tornado strikes southern IW

Published 12:48 pm Friday, March 19, 2021

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A tornado touched down in southern Isle of Wight County around 9:30 p.m. March 18.

Area resident Loretta Holmes Brown describes the event as lasting all of five minutes, but by that time, the damage was done.

She and her husband, Thomas, were outside their home on Collosse Road the next morning trying to patch the roof with a tarp and locate any salvageable items. Loretta hopes to find her husband’s glasses among the debris.

“I think he had his on his head when he came out here; we can’t find them in the house nowhere,” she said.

She and Thomas had been in the kitchen eating a steak dinner when the wind started picking up. Thomas, she said, had gone outside briefly to see if he could find a chair that had blown away.

“Soon as he did, the house started shaking and I come out and try to open the door to get him to come back in; by that time this had all blown off,” Loretta said, standing in front of where the wind had torn the siding from her detached garage.

A nearby church, Colosse Baptist, also took heavy damage. Of the four columns that had supported the church’s portico, only one remains standing. The rest lie strewn across the grass and parking lot. In several places, the sanctuary’s shingle roof has been torn away, exposing the underlying wood to the elements.

“The neighbor down the street called, Kathy, and was telling me she looked out her window … and seen the front of the church grass on fire,” Loretta said. “I guess the power line snapped off.”

While the Browns are expecting a lifeline from their homeowner’s insurance, it won’t bring back a downed 85-year-old pecan tree belonging to their next-door neighbor.

“He grew up in these houses,” she said, as cows mooed in the background. “I think he said his mother planted the trees,” Loretta said.

“The cows are probably having a fit because they’re usually out there in the pasture or the one across the street,” she added. “I don’t think they can get into either one of them right now.”

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch for Isle of Wight County and surrounding areas, but a warning — which indicates a tornado has been sighted either visually or by weather radar — was not issued for Isle of Wight. The Browns also signed up to receive Isle of Wight County’s IW Alert text messages, but never received warning of an imminent tornado.

According to NWS Meteorologist Eswar Iyer, the reason one was never issued for Isle of Wight was because “it happened very quickly, and then it went away very quickly.”

NWS surveyors were on-site the morning of March 19. They ruled it an EF-0, with a maximum wind speed of 85 miles per hour — the strongest EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita scale by press deadline.