Tornado at Barracks Road?

A particularly nasty storm swept through town a couple of hours ago, and based on the reports right now, it sure sounds like a small tornado may be to blame for the corridor of damage that high winds left behind. Accounts by local media outlets and on Twitter report trees down, power out for 41,000 people, and a bunch of reports of property damage. A lot of the damage, at least anecdotally, is in a swath running from Best Buy through Barracks Road over to Ivy Road. While it could be a microburst, those generally last for less time, and are isolated to one location, rather than running along a path.

When we had a tornado in May 2000, it was a few days before the microburst was confirmed to be an F0 tornado, as the path of damage made obvious. On the other hand, our 2002 tornado was never confirmed as such.

At 5:00, I was on 81 in West Virginia, headed home after being out of town for a week, so I missed the whole affair. What was your experience? What do you think–bad thunderstorm, microburst, or tornado? Who’s got pictures?

33 Responses to “Tornado at Barracks Road?”


  • It wouldn’t GREATLY surprise me if it was a tornado, but it would surprise me a bit.

    I was at near Barracks Road at the time and there was a lot of VERY high winds, rain “falling” sideways, and hail. But, while driving home, the damage seemed to be all over the place, as opposed to a particular path… unless it was a somewhat wide path. Plus, there were plenty of places where there was a tree or two down with not much else, as opposed to a specific path of trees down.

    Of course, this was all ground-level. Aerial might prove otherwise…

  • I’m going to say “small” Tornado.

    I was on the way home from work. I take George Town Road to Barracks Road and then 250/29 heading south.

    It was clear but heavy rain until I turned onto 250/29 South. At that point it was what I’d call “White Out” conditions reminiscent of the recent winter snowstorms except this was rain. You couldn’t see further than the brake lights of the car in front of you. All the while debris from trees- twigs, leaves, nuts(?) were pelting the car.

    So I’d say- yeah, a small tornado.

    Then it cleared- almost as quickly as it had occurred- not like any rainstorm I’ve ever experienced.

    After it cleared there were initially 3 trees down on South bound 250 bypass between the Barracks Road Exits and the Ivy Exit.

    The top of one tree landed on a small Japanese car 6 or 7 cars in front of me breaking out some of the windows. The tree blocked all lanes of 250/29 traffic heading toward the Ivy exit.

    Immediately afterward most of the jackasses with 4-wheel drive turned the grassy median (which has a raised curb on both sides) into a U-turn area or a makeshift 3rd lane around the downed trees. Leaving “the rest of us” to deal with the situation.

    All the major clearing of the trees between that section was a direct result of Samaritan Motorists.

    7 of us from various parts of the traffic jam (myself included) walked up to the tree nearest us (the one blocking all the lanes of traffic closest to the Barracks Road on Ramp).

    We quickly discovered that the main trunk (the base of which disappeared several yards into the wooded area) was way to heavy to simply lift. So we began breaking off the smaller limbs obstructing what would be the “fast lane” and then an older guy in the group had the idea to use one of the branches as a lever between the trunk and the guard rail.

    So as a group we levered as much of the tree out of the road as we could to clear at least one lane of traffic- which we did successfully (as of the evening 29 news this was the main tree they showed on their “traffic cam” which was still blocking much of traffic they were showing a tree trimming crew working on).

    After we’d cleared one lane- the female motorist of the damaged vehicle was able to move it out of traffic. And we were able to proceed.

    The two blockages closer to the Ivy Road Exit were cleared by similar Samaritans caught in traffic closer to those downed trees (and whom managed to make a quicker job of it than we were able to) which by the look of a couple of the tree remnants someone seemed to have had a saw of some sort handy- as those trunks were sawed completely through.

    The entire time people trying to dial 911 to make reports received only the sound of an endlessly ringing phone. I’m sure they were swamped. But the stressed young woman who’s car the tree had fallen on- was too caught up in her own traumatic experience to realize that. I clearly remember hearing her say, “Why isn’t the damn 911 answering!!”

  • I was out on/in Lake Monticello when the storm was approaching……. heard thunder and headed back to my uncle’s house. we got there, (a couple blocks from the lake) and all of a sudden there was STRONG WIND and then heavy rain. after a minute or two, the wind switched directions. just a few minutes after that, the wind and rain lightened, then the storm completely cleared. very fast and very frightening. I saw lots of lightening at the beginning when the wind and rain hit. I was thinking there was a funnel cloud overhead, due to the way the wind switched direction (reversed).

  • I think the winds were straight-line, but they were the most intense winds I ever saw. We are in MJH area. You could hear the trees cracking and see them bending. Several came down around here. No power for a while, but it’s back now. Went to Market Street Guadalajara, which mysteriously had power. Piles of people there, and even channel 19 news came in to interview people eating. Neighbor reported to be almost hit by multiple telephone poles coming down on Rugby Ave.

  • Likewise in MJH area. Lots of tree damage and downed wires but power came back on around 9:30.
    What is it with this area? We got hit by the June 3 microburst though I think this one was worse.
    Have to admit I was amazed with all the limbs on wires, wires in streets, etc, that power restored so quickly.

  • I was home alone with my dogs in Belmont and I was definitely worried about the potential for a tornado because the wind suddenly changed direction. I’ve never seen my trees being blown so violently. We lost a large branch off a walnut tree and the whole top of a large oak in Belmont Park was sheared off. Later, Stoney’s was open, but accepting cash only–definitely very lively there. The Mill Creek Food Lion was closed. Pizza Bella was open, but only selling desserts. I went for a run later in the evening and noticed Belmont Avenue was closed to traffic. Police had set up flares and were putting a line of tape across the road.

  • I’m a reformed Okie. One thing you learn out there is that tornados spin. I didn’t see anything like a tornado yesterday, only straight line winds. There were a few moments when I almost ran for the basement though.

  • I was just pulling into the lot at Summer’s Honda on Earlysville Road, next to the old “Rock Store”, when whatever-this-was hit. I was climbing out of my car when the wind shifted and blew my door open. I could scarcely get it closed and then dashed inside. No electricity, of course. When I came out five minutes later, everything seemed calmed down.

    Then came the drive home. I initially tried to go down Georgetown, but wised up soon enough to turn around and get out of there. Still, it took me well over an hour just to get from there to Barrack’s Road. Trees and utility poles were down all over the place. I saw a huge tree complety blocking the north entrance out of the Holiday Inn.

    By the time I got to Barracks Road shopping center, I decided to pull into the parking lot and see if any thing was open. I saw a friend of mine staring at a car under a downed tree. Turns out that her car was pinned down along with several others in front of Rebecca’s. Eventually, a crew showed up with a chainsaw and I helped clear the branches.

    Crushed cars, power tools, and damsels in distress. It was a blast!

  • I was near the intersection of Ivy and Emmett when the storm hit and a huge tree fell into the athletic field behind the gas station on that corner. There was also a tree blocking all passage on University Ave near Snyder Tennis Center – it took power lines down, so nobody was willing to move it out of the way. As of 10am today, that tree has been cleared; however, downed trees are still blocking several roads in the UVA area. Most notably, 14th St just before the light at Grady (if you’re heading toward Preston) is completely blocked.

    In addition, many (if not most) of the traffic lights in the UVA area are out. Police are directing traffic at the Ivy/Emmett intersection as well as at Hydraulic/29N. Please remember to be courteous to other drivers trying to make turns…and stay out of the car if you can!

  • Totally calm where I was. Granted, that was the Atlanta airport, waiting for my flight into Cville… Driving the back way from the airport through Earlysville to White Hall there was 0 sign of damage. Driving to work on Garth/Barracks Rd this morning was another story, although the real visible damage didn’t start till just about the intersection with 21 Curves, aka Old Garth Road.

    My regular UVA office had power restored this morning but no Internet access, so I’m at the UVA Bookstore, using an Ethernet cable (Cavalier wireless is out) to communicate to the world. I’ve gathered anecdotally that Carruthers Hall (the main computer center) got hit pretty bad, certainly many UVA computer systems and sites are offline or sporadic; and power on the local grid is being allocated to the Hospital as the main priority, but some of the Hospital units are shut down, to focus on keeping emergency services going.

  • I gotta go with the other midwesterners on this: yeah, bad storm, crazy high winds, but that was not a tornado. I did send my kids downstairs because the trees around the house were bending down violently, but…that was not a tornado.

  • Just heard another tornado rumor from clerk in a store. This one was that a funnel was spotted touching down near UVa. Anyone hear anything about that?

  • Just heard another tornado rumor from clerk in a store. This one was that a funnel was spotted touching down near UVa. Anyone hear anything about that?

    Well, I have now. So that’s a confirmation of that rumor, right? ;)

  • There are so many trees down in the Rugby rd area they are cAlling it aborgedden

  • I’ve heard several people saying things like, “I thought it was a funnel cloud” and I think those types of comments are becoming “it was a funnel cloud” through gossip’s version of the Telephone Game.

  • Caryn Elaine Johnson

    All the weather pros say it was a micro burst storm, with no tornado funnel clouds. I watched it through my picture windows, first a gentle gale of around 40 knots, then a frightening leap up to double that, and four huge trees crashed in my yard. Then it went back to a gale

    We had 8 trees with major damage.

    There was a sudden pressure drop during the storm. It caused the inside pane of a double pane window to break and burst into the house. The outside pane was fine!

    Out of 27 windows here like that, all with the same grade of glass, only one couldn’t take the pressure.

    None of the three TV roof antennas was damaged, and a 12-lb solar panel used to keep a stored car battery charged was not blown off the roof despite just sitting there.

    A large patio umbrella with loads of windage even when folded wasn’t blown over.

    Seems reasonable to conclude that the micro burst was not at ground level but more than 60 feet elevation when it came through our place on Dairy Rd. That’s also consistent with the damage. Our trees were broken off at least 45 to 50 feet up, and several of the largest were just topped. We had 100 footers that lost only the top 20 feet.

    None of ours was blown over at the roots, though some trees went roots up in other parts of town.

    I have a quality weather station in my back yard, capable of recording winds from 2 to 150 mph. It takes its measurement ten feet up. Throughout the storm the maximum wind speed recorded was only 25 mph at the 10-ft elevation level.

    A real freak storm.

  • Photos around Darden the morning after…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/telegdys/sets/72157624232972839/

    Video during the storm at Darden…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Truz8HLwqgg

  • Thanks for the photos and video, Fred!

  • I live in Barracks West apt. I really dont know what it was to tell you the truth. I’ve seen about 10-12 trees all in one spot snapped in half. All of them were fairly large too. Huge trees uprooted as well. I think there is clearly signs where the storm did more damage in certain areas than others. I think it came from Ivy area crossing Garth Rd. somewhere close to Barracks West apts. then crossing Georgetown Rd. and continuing going between McIntire Park and Preston Ave. then tapering off before you get to Pan-Tops. In some areas like someone mentioned before there is only a couple trees down but in the areas I’ve mentioned it’s opposite of that!! I also heard strange loud noises during the storm. I also like the idea that someone stated its strongest winds weren’t at ground level!!….I like accessing damages after storms. If a twister or tornado had touched ground somewhere you would see its path. Where grass lay flat if it crosses a field is easiest to see. Maybe the twister just never reached the ground though!!!…If it were a microburst it didn’t last very long!!!!!

  • If it were a microburst it didn’t last very long!!!!!

    That’s pretty much a microburst by definition. There are plenty of NOAA articles stating that a microburst usually only lasts a matter of seconds or minutes.

  • I was there. The wind switched directions (switched) and a large animal (I think it was a small dog) whipped past my head and its leash caught me in the cheek. I ran for cover but everyone was already there, filling the space, and I had to seek shelter elsewhere. I know some things were flying and one of the things was a dog. I’d say it was either a tornado or an earthquake of some sort.

  • Cornelius Vanderbilt

    Geoff, the cause of that was unmistakable.

    Drugs.

  • We had 36 trees topped (at the ~50 ft level), felled or leaning precariously at Barterbrook. Power back on after over two days but still no phone at our house thirteen days later. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to download the data from my weather station but hopefully I’ll be able to do that eventually. I’d say it was probably a microburst. But it did the worst damage I’ve seen in thirty years at my house.

  • Nywla,

    We’re 1/2 mile east of you with the same sort of damage. What tree workers in your neighborhood are taking down the largest leaners?

  • Actually I’m unsure who has been taking down the leaners. We’ve had folks just stop by–$150 to remove the top of a tree from the yard (declined by my neighbor who did it himself) and $600 to remove the top of an oak still perched 60 feet up. That one is staying for now. Two weeks later, we still have no phone service. Every day the liars at CenturyLink promise action, every day nothing whatever happens. And we had phone service until a few days AFTER the storm.

  • Two weeks later, we still have no phone service. Every day the liars at CenturyLink promise action, every day nothing whatever happens. And we had phone service until a few days AFTER the storm.

    Last month I moved into a new house. Despite repeated promises to the contrary, it took fifteen days for Centel to turn on our phone service.

  • We already spent $4000 on clean-up, but what’s still to do is the largest – massive 80′ leaners and what’s left standing of the huge oaks and poplars that split.

    They hang over the neighborhood power / telephone / cable lines. Today I accepted the best estimate we got from a competent service with appropriate equipment – a well-negotiated $5800. Only that cheap because we have room on the property to dump 60′ logs inconspicuously.

    Yesterday I noticed that a 3-year-old willow was beginning to turn yellow for lack of water. I gave the ground around it a good soaking and the tree fell over.

  • Yesterday I noticed that a 3-year-old willow was beginning to turn yellow for lack of water. I gave the ground around it a good soaking and the tree fell over.

    I know it’s wrong, but I had to laugh when I read this. :)

  • Did the Willow weep? (I’m with Waldo, I really feel bad about laughing at this picture.)

  • Hard to know if it was weeping or crying in shame. And a willow, like a Mason, tells no secrets.

  • CenturyLink finally showed up 16 days after the storm. To whom does one complain? State Corporation Commission? Better Business Bureau? Del. Toscano? Anyway I’m in the Andes now and won’t be able to do much for a while. Thank goodness for Skype, on which we can rely for communication.

  • They get a buy on this. No one would honor a complaint under these circumstances. 16 weeks maybe, but not 16 days. Your complaint is with fate. We often confuse fate with a need to blame humans.

    And the utilities will charge us for the days they were unavailable. That’s OK under the rules. But there you might get fairness denied the rest of us for so many days w/o telco.

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