A tornado is currently making its way through Free Union at 25 mph, moving towards Charlottesville. I just spoke with my mother, who lives in Free Union, and she reports a low thunder-like rumble that is, unlike thunder, constant. It’s grown louder in the past few minutes, and the National Weather Service reports that the tornado is now directly in Free Union. The last tornado that we had in the area was May 13, 2002, when one ran through town from Farmington to Albemarle High School, along Route 29. Those of you that are in the tornado’s path should seek shelter immediately. Get into your basement and cover yourself with a blanket, beneath a structural support like a door frame. Can anybody offer updates as to what’s going on out there?
6:50pm: Hail the size of golf balls is raining down on Free Union right now.
7:01pm: The storm is now 5 miles northwest of Charlottesville, moving southeast at 20mph. It’s currently forecast to hit the southwestern portion of town (JPA, 5th St., UVa, Fontaine, etc.), according to the Weather Channel. I keep flipping over to WVIR, but they don’t appear to have anything but national news and, now, Wheel of Fortune.
7:10pm: Pea-to-marble-sized hail is falling in downtown, and the rain is coming down like you wouldn’t believe. Lots of thunder and lightning, but nothing tornadic-looking. (To be fair, I can’t see to the south at all.)
7:20pm: The storm has been downgraded to a severe thunderstorm. Presumably, it didn’t hit Charlottesville as a tornado.
7:35pm: A second cell is 6 miles west of Charlottesville, this one a severe thunderstorm and not a tornado. The NWS warns of softball — yes, softball — sized hail. It is moving southeast, and is forecast to impact central and southern Albemarle in the next 25 minutes. From there, south to Fluvanna.
7:40pm: Yay, it’s Robert Van Winkle on WVIR. Where you been, Robert?
11:20pm: Eric Pritchett said, on WVIR this evening, that it’s not yet known if a tornado ever touched down. Despite the NWS’ terminology (“a tornado is currently over Free Union,” etc.), apparently there’s no direct evidence of a tornado. By way of reminder, that’s the same thing that was said after the May 2000 until somebody noticed that all of the severe damage was in a 100-yard-wide swath running through town.