Tornadoes tear through New River Valley, damage widespread

Published: Oct. 24, 2017 at 7:10 PM EDT
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The National Weather Service has confirmed two tornadoes ripped through parts of Montgomery, Pulaski, and Grayson Counties Monday evening.

Violently heavy wind and rain blew through parts of the New River Valley and left a trail of damage in its path.

The Gilbert family's home suffered some of the most extensive damage in Pulaski County. Cinder blocks from a nearby garage are lodged throughout the home where this family has lived for decades. Gaping holes are now scattered throughout the home - doors and windows are busted out, and the roof was lifted of the garage destroying three pick up trucks.

When a tree uprooted and started spinning in the air during the storm, the family inside the home knew something wasn't right.

The National Weather Service reports that same tornado plowed into Montgomery County where Blue Ridge Christian Camp in McCoy saw significant tree damage. Dozens of trees now litter the grounds.

"It's significant damage that I can tell you it's been since the Derecho since I've seen that much," said Neal Turner, the Montgomery County Emergency Coordinator.

The damage was widespread and severe enough to draw the attention of the National Weather Service. Crews spent their day in the McCoy, Belspring, and Fries communities looking at specifics of the damage.

"We noticed more concentrated areas of damage where lots of trees were down in a clear path," said Steve Keighton with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg.

The Weather Service crews talked with homeowners and walked neighborhoods to see exactly how the storm impacted the area.

"It's pretty unusual. It took a very strong storm system with very strong winds aloft so then when you had some shallow thunder storms that began to form. All these storms are moving very rapidly," Keighton said.

The storm ripped through Keith Gruber's neighborhood and knocked a tree onto his work truck in McCoy. It caved in the roof of the truck and toppled trees in his back yard.

"Down in the basement I heard a lot of stuff I didn't know if my roof was coming off or what was happening," Gruber said.

There was so much debris here and in Pulaski County that VDOT used snow plow trucks to push it all out of the road way.

It took a strong, violent gust of wind to knock a tall tree over onto Frank Vine's truck in the Belspring area of Pulaski County. It's now totaled. The roof also ripped off the barn in his backyard where trees lay scattered.

"I guess the word is scary or unnerving. Something like that is completely, totally a surprise," Vines said.

His family listened to it from inside their home. They heard the trees snap and wind howl. It only lasted around 40 seconds but it nearly destroyed his neighborhood.

"When we came out all the damage was done," Vines said.

In Grayson County where a tree fell on a home, Weather Service crews took pictures and talked with homeowners about what they saw.

"I got a couple trees that are laying down in this direction, some that have come down in this direction so there's indicators of rotation," said another Weather Service investigator in the Providence area of Grayson County.

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