Monday AM: More than 16000 electric-utility customers lack power

UPDATE, 9:30 a.m. Monday: A Lynchburg police officer directing traffic after Sunday’s storm was struck by a motorist, police said.

Officer James Goggins was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries. He is being held for further observation.

Goggins was on foot directing traffic at Timberlake Road and Old Graves Mill Road when he was hit by the motorist. 

The Lynchburg Police Department would like to remind motorists to use caution when approaching intersections that are without power and to be on the lookout for first responders, city workers and other utility personnel who are out assisting with the storm damage,” police said.

Twelve people with injuries have been seen at Lynchburg General Hospital this morning, according to Centra spokesperson Diane Ludwig.

Ludwig said injuries mainly consist of scrapes, bruises, cuts and a few broken bones. Some Centra facilities are closed because of power outages.

For those seeking shelter, signs set up around Thomas Road Baptist Church on Monday point people in the right direction for shelter provided by the American Red Cross.

Michael Buscemi, lead Disaster Action Team coordinator for the Red Cross, said there are five teams who’ve fanned out to areas the City of Lynchburg has designated to have received the most damage. They’ll be knocking on doors and canvassing those areas to see who’s in need of help.

He said one person stayed in the shelter last night and has since left. The shelter can take 150 people but he said “it’s impossible to predict” how many might be needing assistance on Monday.

“I think the shock’s going to set in to people, because that usually happens whenever you’re met with a disaster like this: People ride it out and they wake up the next day and they start seeing the devastation and it starts to sink in,” he said. “Things look different in the light of day than they did last night.”

Thomas Road Baptist Church is working with the Red Cross, Gleaning for the World and the Liberty University School of Nursing to provide aid to those who need it.

Anyone wondering about Red Cross assistance is asked to call 845-1234 to learn more.

“Everybody’s eligible to stay here,” Buscemi said. “The shelter’s open to anybody who needs to stay in here, we don’t screen.”

Kelly Heckman and her husband John, owners of the Winridge Manor Bed and Breakfast in Madison Heights, provided shelter for one couple last night.

“We did not have any other tornado refugees. We still have room. We have a wedding this upcoming weekend, but we’ll make it work. We’re happy to do whatever is needed,” Kelly Heckman said.

Meanwhile, Timberlake Road from Waterlick Road to Greenview Drive is completely closed while Appalachian Power crews works on power line damage, according to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office.

Virginia 130 in the Elon area of Amherst County has reopened, but the Virginia Department of Transportation asks drivers to avoid the area so clean-up can continue safely.


UPDATE, 6:45 a.m. Monday: More than 16,000 electric-utility customers remained without power in the Lynchburg region as of 6:30 a.m., according to the websites of four regional utilities.

The majority of the outages were in the city of Lynchburg, where more than 11,800 Appalachian Power customers, or about one-third of the city, lacked electricity after a severe storm tore through the region, downing trees and power lines and destroying buildings.

“Please be careful if you have to go out today,” city officials said via social media. “There is still debris, downed trees and power lines throughout areas in the City. Do not go around barricades. Assume all power lines are live.”


UPDATE 12:02 a.m. Monday: A swath of severe weather Sunday night left homes and businesses damaged, thousands without power and downed trees and power lines in its wake after a storm swept through the Lynchburg area. Around 11:30 p.m. the city of Lynchburg issued a State of Emergency.

The National Weather Service issued multiple severe weather advisories for Lynchburg and surrounding counties, including Appomattox and Campbell counties, and parts of Amherst and Bedford. Severe thunderstorm warnings were later upgraded to a tornado watch for Lynchburg. The Blacksburg NWS did not confirm a tornado touched down in the Lynchburg area, but meteorologists are gathering reports and will be dispatching teams to assess the damage on Monday, said Nick Fillo, NWS meteorologist.

Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said what he believed to be a tornado appeared to touch down near Elon Ruritan Club and headed west of Cedar Gate Road. Rogers said about 20 homes were destroyed and six to seven people were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Capt. John Grieser said there are no major injuries officials are aware of and authorities checked on residents in Amherst’s Elon area.

Via Twitter Lynchburg Department of Emergency Services cautioned residents to stay home, noting: “There are many trees and power lines down and it is not safe to be out.”

At about 11:30 p.m. the city of Lynchburg issued a State of Emergency via the DES Twitter account, asking motorists to “stay off the roadways due to hazardous conditions and to allow Police, Fire and Public Works to respond to problems areas.”

One motorist caught in the wrath of the storm earlier in the night was James Kelley, who was in his car at the parking lot of Burger King on Timberlake Road in Lynchburg when the weather turned.

“All of a sudden the winds got up really bad and it started shaking the car and then my windows shattered out,” he said.

Kelley said a pole struck his vehicle while a large sheet of metal slammed into a truck parked next to his car. He ran from his car into the Burger King to seek shelter as what he believed to be a tornado passed.

Angela Coleman, who said her husband and son both work for the Forest Volunteer Fire Department, brought water, Gatorade and crackers to a damaged warehouse near Timberlake Road and Jordan Drive acting as a command center for first responders.

A Virginia State Police official at the makeshift command center said all of their communications systems were in working order.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management was on the scene at the Timberlake command center. Multiple fire departments were on scene including, Campbell County Fire and Rescue, the Moneta Volunteer Fire Department, the Brookville-Timberlake Volunteer Fire Department and the Evington Volunteer Fire Department.

Clint Murphy was by himself in his office at The Floor Show on Timberlake Road when the storm hit. Hearing the wind, he said he locked himself in and “I was under my desk. That’s what I was told to do in elementary school!”

There were about a dozen workers, family members and friends trying to take stock of the damage to one of the business’ storerooms with flashlights before they left around 9:30 p.m. That part of the building was pitch black and dripping rainwater, debris littering the floor.

“I heard a loud bang like an explosion or something and the wind whipping through, so I shut my office door and just waited out the wind,” Murphy said.

He emerged to a scene of destruction.

Benjamin Chase DeWitt, the business’ owner, said, “The roof peeled back. The whole storefront…that whole side of the building’s gone.

“The whole showroom…there’s nothing left. Nothing usable.”

Pieces of gutter were lodged in the storeroom walls. Sections of the roof near the showroom were missing.

Workers tried to protect some of the merchandise from further damage by hanging a tarp. DeWitt said he’d return in the morning to do more damage control while there’s sunlight since firefighters weren’t allowing anyone in the showroom for the hazards there.

His first priority was to salvage important documents from his office.

“Upstairs where my office is, is fine,” he said. “Anything on the other side of that? Trashed.”

A little further up the road, David and Cindy Wood parked and walked through the rain to get to the DC’s Express Mart convenience store, which they own. They came from their home in Forest — where one of their dumpsters blew into their neighbor’s place — when they heard that the awning over their gas pumps had crashed to the ground in the winds.

“He came first and cut the gas pumps off and I came with my son later,” Cindy Wood said.

As of 8:45 p.m., David Wood said he couldn’t get in touch with his insurance company about the damage. He said he was lucky, having left the store at about 6:45 p.m., soon before the storm hit.

According to Appalachian Power Company spokesperson Teresa Hamilton Hall, an estimated 20,000 customers were without power across central Virginia as of Sunday night, with roughly 17,000 of those in Lynchburg and surrounding areas. She was unable to provide an exact timeline for restoration of power, but said workers were alerted Sunday morning to prepare for possible outages.

“We’ve been tracking the storm’s path and potential to cause outages for several days; this morning, the company’s management team notified our contract workers to be packed and ready to travel to the hardest hit areas. If needed, assistance could also come from AEP Ohio and Kentucky Power,” Hall wrote via email.

She added employees have reported downed trees, damage to power poles, and wires on the ground. Hall said “workers have not been able to assess the full extent of the damage.”

At last count Dominion Energy reported 4,457 outages in Southside; Central Virginia Electric Cooperative had 1,091; and there were 235 for Southside Electric Cooperative.

A number of schools are closed following Sunday’s severe weather. Lynchburg City Schools, Campbell County Public Schools, and Amherst County Public Schools all announced closures. Both Lynchburg and Randolph colleges announced a delayed start, pushing Monday classes back until noon. The Lynchburg Circuit Court and Circuit Court Clerk’s Office also will be closed Monday, according to a Facebook post on the City of Lynchburg page.

Shelters were opened in the area to aid those displaced by the storm. The Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter in Monelison Middle School in Madison Heights, according to various social media post. Pastor Jonathan Falwell also announced via Twitter that Thomas Road Baptist Church had been opened as an emergency shelter for those in need.


UPDATE 11 p.m.: Jonathan Falwell has opened Thomas Road Baptist Church as a shelter for those impacted by Sunday’s storm. He tweeted anyone needing assistance or shelter can come throughout the night or call (434) 239-9281. 


UPDATE, 10:41 p.m. Sunday: According to Appalachian Power Company spokesperson Teresa Hamilton Hall there are now 20,000 customers without power across its service area in central Virginia, with roughly 17,000 of those in Lynchburg and surrounding areas. She was unable to provide an exact timeline for restoration of power, but said workers were placed on alert Sunday morning to prepare for possible outages. 

“We’ve been tracking the storm’s path and potential to cause outages for several days; this morning, the company’s management team notified our contract workers to be packed and ready to travel to the hardest hit areas. If needed, assistance could also come from AEP Ohio and Kentucky Power,” Hall wrote via email.

She added that employees have reported downed trees, damage to power poles, wires on the ground. Hall said that “workers have not been able to assess the full extent of the damage.”

At last count Dominion Energy reported 4,457 outages; Dominion tallied 2,031 in Southside; Central Virginia Electric Cooperative had 1,091; and there were 235 for Southside Electric Cooperative.


UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. Sunday: Just before 10:30 Sunday night both Lynchburg and Randolph colleges announced a delayed start, pushing Monday classes back until noon.

The Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter in Monelison Middle School in Madison Heights, according to numerous tweets from the community.


UPDATE, 10:20 p.m. Sunday: Numerous Amherst County homes were badly damaged from the severe storm that passed through the area Sunday and residents are advised to avoid the Elon area as a large emergency response has unfolded there, the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office said. 

“We’re in the midst of trying to assess damage and start recovery efforts,” said Capt. John Grieser shortly after 9 p.m.

Monelison Middle School has been opened as a shelter for anyone in need and several residents were transported there.

Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said Virginia 130 in the Elon area is closed in both directions and will stay closed through Monday as cleanup continues.

He said about 20 homes are destroyed and six to seven people were taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Grieser said there are no major injuries officials are aware of and residents in the Elon area have been checked on. The Amherst County Humane Society is taking in pets for anyone displaced or those who need to relocate them, he said.

Elon Elementary School is without power, Rodgers said. Emergency workers have been knocking on doors and “everyone is accounted for,” he said.

Crews currently are cutting trees on the roadway in Elon, he said.

It appears a tornado touched down at the Elon Ruritan Club and headed west of Cedar Gate Road, Rodgers said.

Amherst County Public Schools are closed Monday, according to the division’s website.

“We’re trying to get things back in order,” Grieser said.

Kelly Heckman, owner of Winridge Manor Bed and Breakfast off Winesap Road in Madison Heights, said she has noticed a large police presence in the area and said up to 10 people can stay there for shelter.

She said a neighbor can take another four people if needed. Winridge Manor can be reached at (434) 333-5207.

According to Appalachian Power Company spokesperson Teresa Hamilton Hall there are 18,000 customers without power across its service area in central Virginia. She was unable to provide an exact timeline for restoration of power, but said workers were placed on alert Sunday morning to prepare for possible outages. She added that the 18,000 number could climb.

“When we have storms, those numbers change rapidly,” Hall said.

At last count Dominion Energy reported 4,457 outages; Dominion tallied 2,031 in the Southside; Central Virginia Electric Cooperative had 1,091; and there were 235 for the Southside Electric Cooperative.


UPDATE, 9:17 p.m. Sunday: The National Weather Service in Blacksburg has not confirmed a tornado touched down in the Lynchburg area. Meteorologists are in the process of gathering reports from the area and will be dispatching teams to assess the damage said on Monday, Nick Fillo, NWS meteorologist. 

Nick Fillo, NWS meteorologist said “we are going to be sending some teams our there tomorrow to determine the characteristics of the storm, if the damage was caused by a tornado or straight line winds.”

Now that the storms have departed, his staff is trying to determine where the damage occured and to what extent. His office will issue a statement Monday morning. 

As of 9 p.m. Sunday night no fatalities had been reported, according to Fillo although there are widespread reports of trees and power lines down and power outages. 

About 20,000 residents in the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell and the city of Lynchburg are without power at this hour according to Dominion, Southside, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Appalachian power companies. 

Fillo recommends residents proceed with caution in the morning because of ht epotential for live power lines and debris. 

At about 9:30 Campbell County Public Schools announced school is cancelled for Monday. 


UPDATE, 9:08 p.m. Sunday: Appalachian Power reports more than 14,000 customers without power in the Lynchburg area.

Widespread reports of damage and downed trees throughout Lynchburg and surrounding counties.


UPDATE, 8:02 p.m. Sunday: Downed trees and powerlines have blocked traffic along Lakeside Drive in Lynchburg. Lynchburg Fire department trucks have closed the road to traffic.


Earlier: The National Weather Service has issued multiple severe weather advisories for Lynchburg and surrounding counties.

Appomattox and Campbell counties, parts of Amherst and Bedford counties and Lynchburg are all under a severe thunderstorm warning.

The National Weather Service has also issued a tornado watch for Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell counties as well as Lynchburg. The watch will remain in effect until 11 p.m. The National Weather Service advised large hail and damaging winds are likely.

“For your safety, move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Stay away from windows,” the warning states.

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