EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the publishing of this story, Virginia State Police released the names of those who died in Wednesday’s Tornado in Waverly. They are as follows: Larry D. Turner, 50; Devine J. Stringfield, 26, and Ivan T. Lewis, 2. The 30-year-old woman who survived is the mother of the 2-year-old and she remains hospitalized.
In Appomattox County, Edward K. Harris, 78, died in a tornado that threw him from his home.
TOWN OF WAVERLY, VIRGINIA – The sun rose over Waverly much like it did yesterday morning but, unlike Wednesday, this sunrise gave residents of the small town a chance to safely survey the damage from the bout of severe storms hours before that left three dead.
A severe weather outbreak Wednesday brought potent thunderstorms across Central and South-Central Virginia, with several preliminary reports of funnel clouds and possible tornadoes, including a confirmed EF-1 tornado with winds over 100 miles per hour that ripped through the town of Waverly.
GALLERY: Tragedy Strikes As EF-1 Tornado Rips Through Waverly, Killing Three
That storm system struck the town during the 2 p.m. hour Wednesday afternoon and left a trail of destruction in its wake and claimed the lives of three men, including a two-year-old child. According to Virginia State Police, the three were killed when their mobile home was destroyed.
“All three were found approximately 300 yards from their mobile home,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller reported in the hours after the storm. Their bodies have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Norfolk for positive identification.
Police continue to work to notify next of kin and the names of the victims will be withheld until that notification is made.
According to the National Weather Service office in nearby Wakefield, the agency’s storm survey team concluded that “the tornado began a few miles south-southwest of Waverly, moving fast through the town of Waverly, and ending about five miles north-northeast of Waverly.”
Thursday, NWS reported the tornado’s maximum winds were in the range of 100 to 110 miles per hour, making it “a strong EF-1 tornado” on the Enhanced Fujita scale as it traveled on a destructive nine-mile path through the community.
Wednesday’s tornado is far stronger than the storm that hit the town on May 22, 2014, when a brief and weak EF-0 tornado developed north of U.S. Route 460, uprooting numerous trees and causing minor damage to North Baptist Church and several homes and businesses. That tornado also damaged gravestones as it moved through the town.
The May 2014 tornado had maximum winds of 65 to 75 miles per hour.
In the hours after Wednesday’s storm, the severe weather continued and increased across the region, including in Sussex County and surrounding communities. A second band of storms moved through the area, triggering a litany of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings spanning from the heart of Metro-Richmond, through the highly-populated Tri-Cities and other counties, but there were no additional damage or injuries in Waverly.
Tragically, that was not the case in Appomattox County and the Town of Tappahannock in Essex County as cells from the powerful line of storms impacted the area, touching off possible tornadoes and left severe damage in those communities.
According to Geller, a possible funnel cloud left “an 8-10 mile path of destruction” around Appomattox. There were at least seven injuries and “multiple structures damaged” along U.S. Route 460 and Route 727 and into the communities of Evergreen and Promise Land.
Two of those injured had what police called “serious” injuries and were taken to area hospitals. An Appomattox County resident was killed after his home was destroyed by the reported funnel cloud near Evergreen and Red House. The unidentified man’s remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner for identification
GALLERY: Appomattox County Storm Damage, Courtesy: Virginia State Police
Appomattox County Schools were closed Thursday in an abundance of caution and to allow for cleanup to continue and roads to reopen around the area.
In Essex County and the Town of Tappahannock, “at least 30 structures were damaged, with 15 completely destroyed,” were reported by State Police as of yesterday evening just before midnight.
That storm system impacted the area just after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and left a total of 25 people injured, ranging from minor to serious.
Nearly 10 people across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic have been killed in the line of storms that traveled up the Eastern Seaboard earlier this week and through Virginia Thursday.
Due to damage and loss of life across the Commonwealth, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made a State of Emergency declaration Wednesday evening, allowing for public safety agencies, including the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Transportation to devote every available resource to storm response and recovery.
McAuliffe is expected to visit Waverly and tour the area during Thursday afternoon.