High wind slaps city

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 23, 2003

Winds reaching upwards of 55 miles per hour – probably a tornado – cut through the city Saturday afternoon, leaving a destructive trail of damaged homes, downed trees and power lines in its wake.

Although indicators point to a tornado, the National Weather Service won’t make the official determination until its officials come out this morning to investigate the damage and wind path, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist in the Wakefield office.

Weather officials in Wakefield first spotted what have been a tornado moving in on Sunbeam, a tiny community on the outskirts of Courtland, around 2 p.m., said Capt. Jim T. Judkins, the city’s emergency service coordinator. They were worried enough to call Suffolk’s dispatchers, instead of sending the usual teletype message, Judkins said.

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Although no storm-related injuries were reported, the city was flooded with calls of property damage throughout the city shortly after the storm hit, said

&uot;It’s easy to follow the wind on a northeasterly track through the city,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;But by far, the worst damage occurred in the Kristen Lane area (in the Burnett’s Mill subdivision).&uot;

Linda Williams and son, Dione, 27, were home around 2:30 p.m. when a tree in the backyard broke in half, smashing through the roof of the house and demolishing the second story. Despite the severity of the damage, Williams just said she is grateful it wasn’t worse.

&uot;I’m just glad that the tree didn’t come all the way down to the first floor, and that no one was hurt,&uot; she said. &uot;I feel blessed.&uot;

Williams was hanging up the phone when &uot;something just told me to run.&uot;

&uot;I heard the wind blowing. I was almost out the door when I heard a huge sound.&uot;

Dione was in his room when the noise hit.

&uot;I heard a huge BOOM!,&uot; said Hinton, 27. &uot;I was trying to get my raincoat on, my mom just told me to get out. As long as we were OK, that was all that mattered.&uot;

Saturday afternoon’s weather wrecked havoc all around Suffolk.

A house near the intersection of Teal and Mallard streets was struck by a house, knocking down the privacy and fence and breaking a car windshield.

On Route 460, near Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, the old tin roof from a dilapidated building blew several hundred feet from the middle of a cow pasture to the opposite side of the road. Crumpled metal roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle partially blocked the right southbound and was just off the road on the northbound side.

Nearby, on Godwin Boulevard, near the overpass, a tree was uprooted and blown into the southbound lanes. Police rerouted traffic to the other lane until the tree could be cleared.

Other damages reported to Judkins includes:

Tree on house 3200 block of Pruden Boulevard;

Garage fire 100 block of Brewer Avenue (possible lightening strike);

Vacant house destroyed by falling tree in the 6900 block of Elwood Road;

Lightning strike in the 6800 block of Burbage Lake Circle. Chimney damaged;

Power poles down in the 2300 block of Pitchkettle Road and the 4500 block of Nansemond Parkway;

Power outages along Pruden and Godwin boulevards.

The storm forced meetings to be cancelled and caused other interruptions.

At Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, the girls championship basketball game was interrupted by the weather.

The crown of approximately 100 people was herded into the bathroom hallway due to a tornado warning. The game resumed after the winds calmed.