Lynchburg Begins Recovery after Tornado
A confirmed tornado along with heavy rainfall and a small hailstorm hit the city of Lynchburg and its surrounding counties on the evening of Sunday, April 15, causing fallen trees and power lines along with the destruction of multiple storefronts and residential properties in the area.
As of 10 a.m. on Monday, there were eight reported injuries caused by the storm and zero fatalities. In the Carolinas and Virginia, 140,000 residents were left without power. Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Monday in western and central Virginia “to help local and state agencies respond to damage.”
Tornado warnings were first issued Sunday evening just south of Lynchburg in Pittsylvania and Campbell counties, and severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in the cities of Roanoke, Buena Vista and Lexington, as well as the counties of Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt, Rockbridge and Franklin.
“Obviously, Lynchburg got a lot of attention for the storm, but really it stretched all the way down to places and North Carolina and skipped itself up to Lynchburg and the counties around it,” Jake Ruckman, forecaster for the Blacksburg National Weather Service, said.
According to WSET Chief Meteorologist George Flickinger, as the storm moved from Danville to Campbell County and Lynchburg, it weakened, leading the National Weather Service to lift its tornado warning at 6:45 p.m. Sunday evening.
“As the storm neared Lynchburg, though, it quickly strengthened into a small but powerful tornado, and it continued to strengthen as it hit Elon in Amherst County where the tornado did most of the damage,” Flickinger said
In response, the National Weather Service reinstated its tornado warning. On Monday morning, a team of surveyors from the Blacksburg National Weather Service traveled to Lynchburg to confirm that the storm can be classified as at least an EF1 tornado.
In the Lynchburg area, most of the damage was contained to Timberlake Road in Campbell County and the immediate surrounding areas. The storefronts damaged severely on the street include The Floor Show Carpet One Floor & Home, Waterlick Garage and Tire, MedExpress and Burger King.
According to Campbell County Spokesperson Sherry Harding, 15 to 20 commercial buildings and three residential properties were reported to be damaged in the county. In nearby Amherst County, Ruckman said that there were reports of 20 homes destroyed.
In the area where damage was concentrated, no school buildings in Campbell County have reported structural or severe damage. Harding said that power companies were working Monday to run new power lines to restore power to more than 2,000 customers in the county who lost it. For those who still do not have power, Harding could not give a timeline to when power would be restored.
At Liberty University, no damage was reported to any of the buildings, and classes were held as scheduled on Monday — both Lynchburg College and Randolph College opened late on Monday.
During Monday’s Convocation, Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser encouraged students to volunteer this Saturday, April 21, to assist in relief efforts for the storm. According to Nasser, 1,100 students had already signed up to volunteer for the second annual Lynchburg Serve day, but he said that he hopes to have more than 2,000 students sign up to volunteer for storm relief.
“Liberty is not just a university, it’s a movement,” Nasser said on the Convocation stage. “Our city and our county … all around this entire area has been devastated by the tornado that just came through. Our city needs God’s people to say, ‘Here I am with my arms wide open ready to serve.’”
Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church Jonathan Falwell announced on Twitter Sunday night that TRBC opened as a shelter for those whose homes were damaged in the storm and needed a place to stay, and TRBC also sent out crews Monday to begin the process of clean up and debris removal.
Ruckman said that on Tuesday and the next couple of days, Lynchburg residents will experience milder winds of 15-20 mph.