Fierce storm hits Strasburg

Meteorologist says storm probably was not a tornado

By Joe Beck

STRASBURG — A small, but fierce thunderstorm toppled numerous trees onto houses, vehicles and roadways as it swept eastward Sunday night through Shenandoah and Warren counties.

Most of the damage reports came from areas around Sandy Hook Elementary School and Front Royal Road near Strasburg.

Police Chief Tim Sutherly reported an unspecified number of minor injuries that did not require hospitalization.

“It’s mostly trees and debris,” Sutherly said in an interview Monday. “We missed any major injuries or fatalities. Even though it’s a mess, we feel fortunate.”

Gerry Maiatico, fire marshal with the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, reported “a bunch of trees down and lightning strikes on houses.”

The National Weather Service also reported many trees down in Warren and Shenandoah counties. Weather Service meteorologist Carl Barnes said his agency recorded the highest gust at 62 mph from a sensor at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Right now, we’re thinking it’s not a tornado,” Barnes said of the storm. “What we saw on radar did not indicate a tornado-like signature. Right now, it looks more like a straight line thunderstorm with wind damage.”

Many residents along Stickley Loop up the road from the elementary school spent Monday trying to clean up trees and branches felled by the winds.

Part of a massive tree crushed the roof on Tom Prisaznick’s 1984 Ford F-250 pickup truck, a vehicle he has owned since it was brand new.

Prisaznick said the pickup truck, which he considered beyond repair, carried a lot of memories for him. He bought it only days before it carried him and his pregnant wife to the hospital for a hasty delivery.

“He almost got born in it,” Prisaznick said of his son who was standing nearby. “This man barely made it to the hospital.”

Farther up the road, Ellsworth and Rubye Stickley watched neighbor Ron Smith saw away at the remains of a Chinese elm uprooted by the wind. The tree, which Smith estimated to be 40 to 45 feet tall, landed on the corner of the Stickley house but caused no damage, except a dented eaves trough.

“I heard the crack of it,” Rubye Stickley said of the falling tree. “I was sitting in the stairwell, but I was too timid to come out.”

Smith said he took the day off from work to help his neighbors clean up. After using his chainsaw to remove all the branches from the tree trunk he managed to stand the root and about 10 feet of the remaining trunk back up and plug them into the spot from which they had been uprooted. The roots and protective sod fit snugly back in, almost as if they had never been disturbed.

“Put a little dirt around it, and it’ll be all right,” Smith told the Stickleys as they looked on in astonishment.

Brenda Parsons, a State Farm insurance agent in Strasburg, said she and her husband were among the storm’s victims. They had just a bought a house in Stony Pointe.

“We were just about finished renovating it,” Parson said. “Now we’ve got half a roof, water, the whole nine yards.”

Parsons said she had been juggling calls for help from policyholders all day.

“We’re just trying to set expectations,” Parsons said. “We do claims on a severity basis, and everybody has been very understanding with that.”

Barnes said the Weather Service station in Sterling began tracking the storm in eastern West Virginia at 5:23 p.m. and followed it through Shenandoah and Warren counties. It faded away in northern Fauquier and southern Loudon counties around 9:15 p.m.

Barnes said the Weather Service is continuing to gather reports on the storm damage and asks anyone with information to post it on the agency’s Facebook page or call 703-996-2201.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com