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Family escapes harm as tree felled by storm

South Boston News
A downed oak rests on the roof of a dwelling at Oak Grove Plantation in Cluster Springs. (Contributed photo) / November 04, 2019

Disaster nearly struck at Oak Grove Plantation in Cluster Springs as a storm swept through the area on Halloween night, kicking up high winds and the threat of tornadoes.

There was a near-miss at Oak Grove as a huge oak tree fell onto the roof of a side dwelling used for rental housing. However, the stately oak came down hours after the storm’s peak, at around 11 p.m., although the winds were still blowing strong by that time, said Pickett Craddock, owner of the bed and breakfast inn with her husband, Michael Doan.

“It’s a miracle in its way” that no one was seriously injured, said Craddock.

The tree crashed down onto the rental home, occupied by a family of four — mother, father and two children. Limbs punched two holes in the roof and poked into the bedroom where the two children were sleeping.

“It’s pretty traumatic to wake up to a tree in your face,” said Craddock.

The children suffered bumps and scrapes but were checked out at the local emergency room, treated and released. The parents also were examined at the ER but did not require any treatment, she said.

The oak’s fall was cut short by a huge limb that hit the ground first, bracing the heavy trunk and keeping it from crushing the home. “It was the biggest tree in the yard and three-quarters of it fell on the roof,” Craddock said. “They were lucky.

“If the limb had not stopped the tree, it would have landed directly on the children in their beds.”

Aware of the risk of falling trees during severe weather, the family had left the rental home during the height of the storm, shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday. They returned later that evening to settle in. Then the massive tree toppled over about an hour before midnight.

The father of the household was asleep in bed at the time, while the mother was in the bathroom. The sheetrock ceiling in the bathroom collapsed when the tree struck the roof, but the woman did not appear to be injured, Craddock said. However, she has since experienced some back pain.

Craddock said the status of damaged dwelling is uncertain, although the roof has two big holes and a porch was destroyed. The floor also took a pounding, she said.

“It looks pretty bad to me.”

Craddock said the rental house is where her great grandfather, a Cluster Springs physician, would perform surgery on his patients. The dwelling dates back to around 1850, she said.

The oak tree was probably around 200 years old. “It was the largest in the yard,” she said.

Other damage from the storm appears to be fairly isolated. Staunton River State Park, which was listed as one of the likely locations for trouble with the Thursday night tornado alert, was unscathed by the weather system, a park employee said.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield confirmed that a tornado touched down in western Mecklenburg County, near Buffalo Junction, at 7:48 p.m. Thursday. The twister, which registered as an EF-1 tornado with top winds of around 90 mph, cut a path of roughly 100 yards for roughly 4.5 miles.

It uprooted trees and caused heavy damage to some sheds and outbuildings, but there was only minor damage to one home in the area.

The tornado touched down near Whitehouse Road and ended near Lake Ridge Drive after about 10 minutes on the ground, NWS Wakefield reported.

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