Severe weather spares Suffolk

Published 9:42 pm Monday, April 6, 2009

The warnings started coming a little after 10 a.m. on Monday.

A tornado had been spotted in on the National Weather Service’s radar, and it was headed toward Suffolk.

For many of the city’s residents, the warnings probably brought back year-old memories of the twister that leveled wide sections of the Hillpoint neighborhood and the Driver community last April.

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The difference this time was that the twister meteorologists saw on their radars never touched down in Suffolk. Television news reports indicated that a funnel cloud had been spotted in Newport News and that at least one building — a seafood packing plant — suffered damage from high winds.

Hail was reported in the city of Williamsburg and in Mathews County and in Hertford and Gates counties in North Carolina.

The National Weather Service reported that the roof was torn off of the Peanut Belt Research Station in Bertie County, N.C. A microburst with winds estimated at 60 to 70 miles per hour was blamed for that damage, according to the weather service.

A couple of cars were damaged from a falling tree and flying debris, the report stated, and trees also were down about a mile south on N.C. Route 11.

A microburst is a powerful downdraft associated with thunderstorms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Downdrafts associated with microbursts are typically a few hundred to a few thousand feet across. The air that is pushed out to the sides of the microburst can cause severe damage to structures and trees.

Suffolk spokeswoman Debbie George said there were no reports of damage in the city.

Monday’s severe weather came from the southwest, and bands of thunderstorms swept northeast through Suffolk throughout the morning, letting up early in the afternoon.

Although no wind damage was reported in the city, torrential rains briefly flooded streets downtown.

Most areas of Suffolk received between a half-inch and an inch of rain, with areas near the southern border getting as much as an inch and a half, according to Jennifer McNatt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

Following the expiration of the tornado warning at 10:45 a.m., a severe thunderstorm warning was issued. The city remained under a tornado watch until mid-afternoon. All watches and warnings have since expired.

Weather conditions for most of the remainder of the week are expected to be milder, with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the 50s and 60s. There is a chance of showers or thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday.