VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – City officials estimate there has been nearly $16 million in property damage – more than $15 million estimated in residential damage along with public damage estimates so far of $731,000 – as a result of the EF-3 tornado that hit the Great Neck area Sunday evening.
Damage estimates do not include Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, where a tornado touched down around 5:45 p.m. Sunday.
The National Weather Service Wakefield confirmed Monday morning it was an EF-3 tornado that hit the Great Neck section of the city. NWS Wakefield said their survey found winds were likely between 140 to 150 mph, with peak winds of 145 mph and the path of the tornado about 4.5 miles long, from the Eastern Branch of the Lynnhaven River to Fort Story.
Following a preliminary assessment, city officials reported damage to at least 115 structures. The city’s update Monday afternoon noted that nine homes had been destroyed, another 36 have major damage that make them uninhabitable and many more have “significant damage. “
According to WAVY Meteorologist Ricky Matthews, this is the first tornado of that strength to hit Virginia Beach on record. The last EF-3 tornadoes that occurred in the Hampton Roads area were the Suffolk tornado in 2008 and the James City/Gloucester tornado in 2011.
NWS Wakefield is still conducting a storm survey and will give any additional details as they become available.
Due to the tornado, Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney declared a local state of emergency Sunday night. There have been no injuries reported at this time following the tornado.
The city had opened an Impact and Resource Center at the Great Neck Recreation Center, but that closed at 5 p.m. Monday, and the recreation center will reopen for normal operations at 6 a.m. Tuesday. Representatives from the city’s Department of Human Services will be at the recreation center in a dedicated room beginning at 8 a.m. for anyone who needs help.
It said the recreation center would be available for people who need hot showers, power to recharge phones and mobile devices and grief counselors for anyone who wishes to speak to one. Anyone in need of additional help or support should contact 311.
Plans for school Tuesday
Cox High School, Great Neck Middle School and John B. Dey Elementary School were all closed Monday, but Virginia Beach City Public Schools said all would open Tuesday. Buses will run their usual routes except for alternate bus stops for Old Donation School students and for students in the Broad Bay Estates and Broad Bay Point Greens.
Students in Broad Bay Estates should catch the bus at the cross section of Falcon Crescent and Rally Drive at 9:25 a.m. for Great Neck Middle on Bus 320 and at 7:40 a.m. on Bus 325 for John B. Dey Elementary.
Students in Broad Bay Point Greens can catch the bus at the cross section of Tether Keep and Dey Cove at 9:25 a.m. for Great Neck Middle on Bus 330 and at 7:40 a.m. on Bus 69 for John B. Dey Elementary.
Old Donation School students in Broad Bay Point Greens and Chelsea Neighborhood should catch Bus 125 at Great Neck Middle at 7:55 a.m., while students from Broad Bay Estates should catch Bus 103 at Cox High School on Shorehaven Drive at 7:55 a.m.
There will be no buses for students in the Chelsea Neighborhood due to streets there currently being impassible. Students there are asked to either walk or ride to school if they can do so safely.
All other students can use their normal bus stops. Buses at the end of the school day will return to the same location after regular dismissal, and parents are “strongly encouraged” to escort their children to and from bus stops and/or school, given the new stops and what it said were potential safety concerns in the area.
Students in academies and special programs who need transportation are asked to report to their usual bus stops at the usual time. Students who are not able to report safely will have excused absences and can work with teachers to make up work as they are able. Any staff not able to report due to road conditions should contact their supervisors.
City officials outline damages, next steps
During a press conference Monday, Mayor Bobby Dyer said the city is blessed that there were no injuries or loss of life during the tornado. He also expressed thanks for the amount of responders that jumped into action.
The city is still working to learn more about the extent of the damage, but they did say 115 damaged structures were searched by public safety Sunday night. They expect to have more accurate details on the extent of damage by the end of the day.
The city said it appreciates the offers of assistance from residents and businesses, and it is working to organize and establish channels for donations. Currently, the city is asking that people not show up with unsolicited donations, or to volunteer without having already been asked in the Great Neck area, and that it would provide more information soon.
It said VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads would coordinate necessary volunteers when and if the city asks. The city said people should fill out a complete profile on the VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads website, and said people could register at the Virginia Beach Tornado Volunteer Response.
The Director of Emergency Management said that they had NWS Wakefield on hand because of Something in the Water and that they both continued to monitor the storm. They said both VB and NWS Wakefield began alerting officials of the tornado threat around 5:18 p.m.
As soon as the weather service noticed a tornado on the ground, the city started deploying resources to the necessary areas.
The Communications Director said that some residents did not get notified of the alerts, but that NWS would need to follow up on why that was.
The city is expected to stay in a state of emergency for the time being. The Virginia Beach Police Chief also said that road closures in the area will likely remain until Tuesday or Wednesday.
As it happened
A tornado warning was issued for parts of Virginia Beach Sunday night. According to the National Weather Service, the warning expired at 6:15 p.m.
The city tweeted at 6:07 p.m. that a tornado reportedly touched down in the area of River Road and Great Neck. There are trees down. According to the city, a tree fell on a house and a car.
A few minutes later, the Virginia Beach Fire Department tweeted that crews were responding to “major storm damage to multiple homes in the 2200 block of Haversham Close.” At the time, the City reported more than a dozen homes were damaged along Upper Chelsea Reach and Haversham Close. There were also reports of several homes in that neighborhood with gas leaks. City officials were still working to repair the gas leaks as of Monday morning.
If you are trying to get around in this area, please note southbound Great Neck Road has a lane closed near Adam Keeling. According to a tweet from the city, Route 29 will be used as a detour until further notice.
Meanwhile, Dominion Energy reported thousands of customers lost power during the storm. Almost all of the outages were restored by Monday morning. Click here to see the latest outages.
WAVY viewer Sophia Moore shared this video she captured from her backyard in Virginia Beach Sunday night.
Great Neck Recreation Center, at 2521 Shorehaven Drive, is open for residents who have been impacted by the storm. Pets are welcome, according to the City of Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools announced Sunday night that Cox High School, Great Neck Middle School and John B. Dey Elementary School would be closed Monday due to road closures and damage caused by the tornado.
School officials say they will make decisions when it comes to Tuesday and the rest of the week in regards to school by the end of the day Monday.
As a result of the Sunday severe weather, the Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach announced all events for Sunday were canceled.
VBPS is working with city personnel and emergency management team to fully assess the situation.