RICHMOND, Va. – Chief meteorologist Zach Daniel called Wednesday one of the most severe weather events he has seen since he began at CBS 6 almost a decade ago; an event that has left at least four people dead and at least 50 injured.
There were at least seven tornadoes and two funnel clouds reported in Virginia. There were also at least two tornadoes reported in North Carolina, right near the Virginia border. There was significant damage left in the wake of a storm system that stretched well north of Richmond down to Durham, North Carolina.
Not only were trees and power lines downed, but the intensity of winds swept up and hurled buildings and cars.
Residents of the tiny town Waverly were shocked by three deaths, all males, and eight injuries, and millions of dollars in damages.
A 50-year-old male, 26-year-old male and 2-year-old male were killed when their mobile home was destroyed in the storm. All three were found approximately 300 yards from the mobile home.
“I was at work when I got a call that a tornado was hitting Waverly,” said Pastor Terrence L. Green of Empowerment Temple Ministries.
The mobile home that left three dead had flown through the air and hit his church.
“It took the wind out me,” he said. The front of the buildings sustained extensive damage, but that was not why Green’s heart was broken.
“We’re not worried about the damage, our prayers go out to the family that lost their lives, the Turner family.” “We just thank God that despite the damage the church is still standing.”
“We are going to recover,” he added.
Police said there were reports of a funnel cloud in the area, but there has been no official declaration of it being a tornado.
An Appomattox County man was found dead after his residence was destroyed by a reported funnel cloud that swept through the region of Evergreen and Red House. There were at least seven injuries reported in that county.
Some areas were harder hit than others as storms continued to track over counties, delivering multiple blows. Three storms with a tornado warning passed through Prince George.
Waverly also continued to be pummeled, and the search and rescue team had to temporarily suspend its efforts to locate residents in the debris.
The Tappahannock area was reportedly hit by a tornado as evening settled, and emergency crews were having a hard time getting to folks calling 911. A trailer park was reported obliterated and multiple houses were reported crushed.
Quarter-sized hail was spotted in Hanover and Prince George Counties.
Power outages were rampant across the state, with over 30,000 Dominion Power customers without power in the early evening. Other power companies reported outages in the the thousands.
Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a state of emergency around 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday, as reports continued to accumulate, of high-winds, airborne debris , strong rain and downed power lines. McAuliffe will visit impacted areas Thursday and the declaration of a state of emergency will help aid response and recovery.
The National Weather Service will survey the areas were tornados were reported, likely Thursday. There were tornadoes reported in Fluvanna, Appomattox, Mecklenburg, Sussex, Tappahannock, and two funnels spotted north of Fredericksburg.
Doppler radar recorded wind gusts at 100 m.p.h. and the storms raced across the counties at speeds of 55 m.p.h.
It is very uncommon for Virginia to this type of severe weather in February, with this many tornado warnings especially.
"The parameters that we have here in place are the strongest I have seen in more than eight years and that is saying something,” Daniel said. “This is just one of those times, but it's February – not April, May or July – but February, a time we do not have tornados.”
CBS 6 began weather coverage at 2:30 p.m., on-air and continued non-stop past 8 p.m. as the storms raged, with warnings extended throughout areas of the state until 11 p.m.