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Storm sends tree crashing into 200-year-old house

Judy Robinson, left, and her daughter Samantha Linaweaver, right, and Samantha's son, Michael Thomas, 5, stand beside this fallen walnut tree outside their home at 2162 Van Buren Road in Maurertown on Thursday. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Star Tannery Volunteer Fire Department crews work to remove trees from the roadway along Van Buren Road west of Maurertown on Thursday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A Star Tannery Fire Department volunteer walks around this uprooted tree along Van Buren Road west of Maurertown on Thursday afternoon after high winds toppled trees along the road. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Cedar Creek overflows a bridge near the intersection of Cedar Creek and Zepp roads in Shenandoah County on Thursday. Trees were downed and creeks rose throughout the region as a storm pattern moved through the valley. Jeb Inge/Daily (Buy photo)

By Joe Beck

Samantha Linaweaver and two family members on Thursday survived a fierce storm that heaved an old walnut tree against her 200-year-old farmhouse at 2162 Van Buren Road west of Maurertown.

The storm, which was described by Shenandoah County officials as a "weather event," toppled multiple trees in the area of where Sugar Hill and Van Buren roads intersect. Multiple crews responded to the scene, including Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation and crews with Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.

Linaweaver watched the storm head straight toward the bedroom of her house. She spoke in wonderment afterward about what she described as a tornado that rode over the top of the house amid torrential rain and window-rattling winds.

"It wasn't like what you see on TV in Oklahoma," Linaweaver said of the storm. "It was like one square wind and rain cloud, and when it came down the field, it literally turned, and kind of created a funnel and just went right over the top of the house."

She said she screamed at her 5-year old son, Michael Thomas, and mother, Judy Robinson, to move to an inside room in the house. Moments later, the walnut tree hit the side of the house with an impact that bent the entire two-story structure. The damage allowed water to pour into the living room.

"I know my whole house was shifted from this tree, and I honestly don't know how they're going to get it off," Linaweaver said.

"It's like the whole house went crooked," she added.

She said the walnut tree was one of 19 destroyed by the storm, 12 of them along a one-mile stretch of Van Buren Road leading to the intersection with Sugar Hill Road. The walnut tree ended up lying against the side of the house awaiting the arrival of deputies who had set to work cutting up downed trees by hand.

"It was derooted and everything," Linaweaver said of the tree. " There's about a four-foot hole filled with water in our side yard."

The storm also pitched some sycamores that had been in a pond into an adjoining hayfield.

"It just pretty much completely uprooted everything around the pond," Linaweaver said.

Linaweaver, 29, said she has lived in the house her entire life. The building has remained in the family hundreds of years, but she said isn't sure it can be inhabited until repairs are made.

The storm that hit the area was one of a line of severe thunderstorms that swept through Virginia on Thursday. In Richmond, a 10-year-old boy was killed when an uprooted tree fell on him. The storm also caused the power to go out for more than 170,000 homes and businesses across the state.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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