Trop­i­cal storm kills 5 in Va.

Flood warn­ing is still in ef­fect for Rich­mond area; thou­sands lack power

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY MICHAEL MARTZ

Trop­i­cal Storm Michael swept across Vir­ginia with sur­pris­ing speed and fury, leav­ing at least five peo­ple dead and an­other miss­ing in a flash flood caused by tor­ren­tial rains.

The rem­nants of a hur­ri­cane that hit the Florida Pan­han­dle with Cat­e­gory 4 winds, Michael spun off seven sus­pected tor­na­does in Vir­ginia as it sliced north­east through the mid­dle of the state Thurs­day night and early Fri­day.

The storm car­ried wind gusts of more than 50 mph, dropped 3 to 7 inches of rain — more in places — and left nearly 600,000 Vir­gini­ans without power.

It ar­rived less than a month af­ter the rem­nants of Hur­ri­cane Florence touched off 10 tor­na­does in Vir­ginia — nine in the Rich­mond met­ro­pol­i­tan area, where one man died af­ter a tor­nado de­mol­ished the Ch­ester­field County ware­house where he was work­ing.

“As we have seen each time these storms hit, these storms are un­pre­dictable,” Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day af­ter­noon at the state emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter in Ch­ester­field.

And it’s not over yet, even though the skies are now clear.

Rich­mond of­fi­cials warned Fri­day that a flood warn­ing will re­main in ef­fect un­til Sun­day at 5 p.m., and the James River will be closed to recre­ation un­til wa­ter lev­els sub­side. The of­fi­cials urged peo­ple at­tend­ing the Rich­mond Folk Fes­ti­val or other events close to the James to “ex­er­cise ex­treme cau­tion while par­tic­i­pat­ing in week­end fes­tiv­i­ties.”

The city’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works an­nounced Fri­day that it will col­lect storm de­bris from res­i­dents at their curbs.

Dam­age es­ti­mates won’t be avail­able for a week to 10 days, ac­cord­ing to Jeff Stern, di­rec­tor of the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Emer­gency Man­age­ment.

The five con­firmed fa­tal­i­ties from the storm in­clude a Hanover County firefighter who was killed when a trac­tor-trailer ran into his firetruck on In­ter­state 295.

Four other Vir­gini­ans drowned af­ter their ve­hi­cles were caught in flash flood­ing — two in Danville, one in Pitt­syl­va­nia County and one in Char­lotte County.

State po­lice and lo­cal law en­force­ment re­leased these de­tails of the five con­firmed fa­tal­i­ties:

♦ Hanover Lt. Brad Clark, 43, of Me­chan­icsville died af­ter a trac­tor­trailer rammed a Hanover firetruck that had stopped along I-295 on Thurs­day night to as­sist in a twove­hi­cle crash. Two other fire­fight­ers were taken to VCU Med­i­cal Cen­ter with life-threat­en­ing in­juries, and a fourth was treated for mi­nor in­juries at the scene.

The driver of the trac­tor-trailer, Lester Labarge, 49, of Cal­i­for­nia, Md., was hos­pi­tal­ized with se­ri­ous in­juries and charged with reck­less driv­ing and de­fec­tive brakes, state po­lice said.

♦ A man drowned and a woman re­mains miss­ing af­ter their ve­hi­cle was stranded in high wa­ter on a bridge on Mount Har­mony Road in Char­lotte shortly be­fore 7:30 p.m. A 17-year-old and his fa­ther and grand­mother were cling­ing to the bridge rail­ings when lo­cal and state po­lice ar­rived. The Char­lotte Sher­iff’s Of­fice pulled the teen to safety, but the adults were swept away in flood­wa­ters.

Au­thor­i­ties re­cov­ered the fa­ther’s body, but the grand­mother had not been found and was pre­sumed dead, of­fi­cials said. Res­cuers con­tin­ued to look for her late Fri­day.

♦ James E. King Jr.,

45, of Dry Fork drowned af­ter be­ing swept away from his ve­hi­cle about 3:30 p.m. on Thurs­day in the Mount Her­mon com­mu­nity in Pitt­syl­va­nia.

A Pitt­syl­va­nia sher­iff’s deputy and lo­cal res­i­dent tried to res­cue him but were un­able to reach him. State po­lice and lo­cal fire­fight­ers found his body down­stream about 10:30 p.m.

♦ In Danville, 53-yearold Wil­liam Lynn Tanksley was swept away from his ve­hi­cle by flash flood­ing near the 100 block of Colo­nial Court on Thurs­day af­ter­noon. His body was to be taken to Roanoke for an au­topsy.

A sec­ond fa­tal­ity oc­curred in Danville on Goodyear Boule­vard about 10:20 p.m. Po­lice said the vic­tim, 60-yearold Jen­nifer Bjar­ne­sen Mitchell, was stranded in­side a ve­hi­cle that was over­run with flood­wa­ters.

At least seven tor­na­does hit cen­tral and east­ern Vir­ginia dur­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Michael:

♦ James City County, an EF-1 in Norge and Toano;

♦ Mid­dle­sex County, an EF-0 near Ja­maica;

♦ Glouces­ter County, an EF-0 near Pampa Road and an­other EF-0 near Cuba Road;

♦ New Kent County, an EF-0 at Colony Trail;

♦ Amelia County, an EF-0 at Jen­nings Lane; and

♦ Not­toway County: EF-0 at Burkeville. (The Not­toway tor­nado’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion could change based on ad­di­tional sur­veys.)

Any­one with ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about any tor­nado dam­age can re­port it to the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice by send­ing an email to akq-re­ or sub­mit­ting a re­port at­portWX.

The trop­i­cal storm’s rain­fall gen­er­ally ranged from 3 to 7 inches around cen­tral Vir­ginia, with iso­lated ar­eas in Char­lotte, Caro­line and Mid­dle­sex re­port­ing more than 9 inches.

The rain­fall prompted 30 sep­a­rate flash flood warn­ings to be is­sued across the state, along with 12 tor­nado warn­ings.

The state of emer­gency de­clared by the gov­er­nor on Thurs­day re­mains in ef­fect, Northam said Fri­day.

“We still have flood­ing, downed trees, closed roads and a lot of de­bris,” he said.

The storm af­fected up to 1,500 roads across Vir­ginia, prompt­ing hun­dreds of emer­gency calls for traf­fic ac­ci­dents and blocked road­ways.

The Vir­ginia Na­tional Guard sent eight sol­diers and two res­cue ve­hi­cles to the Danville area, where one of two emer­gency shel­ters opened for the storm held about 30 peo­ple. Ad­di­tion­ally, 16 res­i­dents of ad­ja­cent Pitt­syl­va­nia were housed in a ho­tel. The sec­ond emer­gency shel­ter, in the Salem area, held about 50 peo­ple.

Un­like with Hur­ri­cane Florence, which ini­tially ap­peared headed for south­east­ern Vir­ginia, the gov­er­nor did not or­der emer­gency evac­u­a­tion of res­i­dents for Trop­i­cal Storm Michael.

Northam said he or­dered the evac­u­a­tions of low-ly­ing ar­eas for Florence be­cause of con­cerns about po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic storm surge, while Michael stormed across the mid­dle of the state with heavy rain and high winds.

“There was plenty of warn­ing,” said the gov­er­nor, re­mind­ing Vir­gini­ans to never at­tempt to drive through high wa­ter and to ad­just their driv­ing to weather con­di­tions.

Do­min­ion En­ergy Vir­ginia, the state’s largest elec­tric util­ity, es­ti­mated that about 585,000 cus­tomers lost power at some point dur­ing the storm.

The com­pany had re­stored power to more than 200,000 cus­tomers at the time of the gov­er­nor’s news con­fer­ence early Fri­day af­ter­noon, but warned that restora­tion could take un­til late Mon­day. The Rich­mond-based com­pany has de­ployed about 6,000 em­ploy­ees to re­store elec­tric­ity.

Do­min­ion’s out­age web­site showed 218,226 of the com­pany’s 2.6 mil­lion cus­tomers were without power at 9:30 p.m. on Fri­day.

In the Rich­mond and Tri-Cities ar­eas, Do­min­ion had 70,563 cus­tomers without power. Ch­ester­field had the high­est num­ber of out­ages lo­cally with 20,772. Rich­mond had 13,118, and Hen­rico County had 11,723.

The south­east­ern por­tion of the state had a higher num­ber of out­ages with 89,102.

Do­min­ion Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Ed Baine said the com­pany mea­sured wind gusts as high as 75 mph, pri­mar­ily from tail­winds as the storm moved north­east to­ward the At­lantic Ocean.

“There is sig­nif­i­cant dam­age — fallen trees, downed lines, blocked roads,” Baine said.


Bent­ley Davis ex­am­ines dam­age from a tree that crashed into his James City County home when a tor­nado hit nearby Thurs­day.


Brad Par­sons with the Davis H. El­liot com­pany worked on a util­ity pole along Atlee Sta­tion Road in Hanover County on Fri­day. Trop­i­cal Storm Michael left nearly 600,000 Vir­gini­ans without power and of­fi­cials said restora­tion could take un­til late Mon­day.


Ot­terdale Road in Ch­ester­field County was closed to through traf­fic on Fri­day af­ter the trop­i­cal storm.


A tree smashed into Bent­ley and Carolyn Davis’ home in James City County. They had been watch­ing tele­vi­sion when the tree landed be­tween their seats and the TV.

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