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It's official: That was a tornado

Debris on Donal Shamburg's farm
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Debris on Donal Shamburg's poultry farm off Kelly Road west of Mt. Jackson. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Harry Gochenour and his son cut tree limbs
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Harry Gochenour, left, and his son, Shaun, right, cut tree limbs that fell on their neighbor's car, Joanne Cooksey, off Coffmantown Road west of Woodstock Thursday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

The National Weather Service has confirmed what many Shenandoah County residents suspected -- yes, that was a tornado that ripped through the region early Thursday morning.

Rated an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale of tornadoes, the twister touched down near the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Fulks Run and traveled more than 30 miles, according to the NWS website's page on the storm.

It had winds up to 130 mph, and was a maximum 400 yards wide. The tornado blew through between about 2:10 and 2:35 a.m., according to the website.

"[It] created nearly continuous damage on its 33 mile northeast path, not lifting until it got to St. Luke Virginia just west of Woodstock," the site says. "Along its path the tornado tore off roofs from barns and homes, snapped and uprooted hundreds of trees, decimated a mobile home, picked up a half ton piece of industrial equipment and tossed it 200 yards and destroyed numerous sheds."

Orkney Springs, Basye and Bryce Resort received the brunt of the damage, the site says, with a chicken house leveled and others damaged, and several trailers thrown.

"The tornado snapped and uprooted most of the large trees in the forest within its path," the website says.

The NWS report says an 82-year-old woman was hurt from flying debris, and a 26-year-old woman was slightly injured when she fell trying to escape the storm. Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew didn't have any further information on the women Friday evening.

Two EF-1 tornadoes, whose maximum speed was 90 mph, also touched down in Rockingham County, according to the NWS. One touched down at 3 a.m. in the Linville area, and the second just before 4 a.m. in Keezletown.

Shenandoah County residents struggling to clean up the mess can get some help from two Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief teams out of Midlothian.

"They're cleaning up trees for homeowners," Yew said. "They're willing to do about anything the homeowner would like them to do. Right now, [they will stay] probably four or five days, maybe even longer. Depends on how many requests keep coming in for their services."

Residents can ask for the crews' help by calling 459-6167.

A preliminary damage estimate to residential and farm buildings is $2.74 million, according to Assistant County Administrator Mary Beth Price.

Ten farm buildings -- valued at $580,000 -- were destroyed, with 30 more partly damaged, according to figures released by the county. It's estimated that $300,000 worth of damage was done to farm equipment, and the cost to clean up debris and fix fences will be more than $200,000.

On the residential side, damages are estimated at $915,000, according to the county. This includes the destruction of a mobile home used as a hunting cabin, and major damage to six homes. More than five dozen homes had minor damage to their roofs.

To help residents as they clear up from Thursday's tornado, the Shenandoah County Landfill will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. the next two Sundays, according to Price. It is normally closed Sundays.

Shenandoah Ski and Hunt Estates and Kelly Road remain closed to the public, Yew said.
He also said the county fire department asks that residents call the emergency communications center at 459-6101 before burning any debris.

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