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Scottsburg-area community hit by likely tornado (UPDATED)

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
The badly damaged homes of Pete Talley (top) and Jesse Traynham
SoVaNow.com / November 03, 2018
A handful of homes in the Bethel area near Scottsburg sustained damages Friday night as a tornado packing winds up to 125 mph cut a swath of destruction along a two-mile path by Hundley Road around 7:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday night that the EF2 twister — a strong tornado — touched down around the 1200 block of Hundley Road and uprooted trees, scattered hay bales and all but destroyed two homes and damaged several more as it tore through the neighborhood, located between Scottsburg and Crystal Hill.

The fast-coalescing storm caused no known injuries, although there were some close calls. One near-disaster involved an Amish buggy that was traveling on Hundley Road at the time; high winds flipped the buggy and blew it into a nearby field, but the riders and horse escaped without serious injury.

At one home collapsed by the tornado, Jesse Traynham had just said goodbye to guests who had been visiting some 10 minutes earlier. He was sitting out on the porch, with no way to know that the weather was about to turn so sharply. “It was nice and everything. Pretty day,” he said.

In seemingly an instant, the skies darkened and pounding rain started to fall. Traynham went inside to protect his grandchildren, 4 and 7, who live at the house. “I threw them on the floor and got on top of them,” he said. “I can’t even tell you what happened. It happened so fast.”

The wood-siding home buckled under the winds and the roof was ripped away, but Traynham and his grandchildren were safe. In the aftermath of the disaster, he and other family members in the five-person household — two were elsewhere Friday night — are being helped by the local chapter of the American Red Cross, which is providing food, clothing and housing assistance.

Across Hundley Road, Traynham’s landlord, Lee Walters, had driven in Friday from Chesterfield to stay for a weekend hunting trip. He owns a small trailer on land across the road from the house he rents to Traynham. “It sounded like hail was hitting the back of the trailer,” Walters said. “Next thing I know it’s doing like this” — he made a swaying motion — “shaking and rocking back and forth.

“I didn’t have enough sense to think it was a tornado,” he said ruefully.

Unlike the rental home, the trailer emerged unscathed. “I had two trees [fall] on the shed and the roof, but no damage,” said Walters.

Up the road a short distance, the one-story brick home where Pete Talley lives is missing its roof — one of the worst damage scenes along the country byway, which was littered Saturday with storm debris and snapped trees on both sides of the road.

Mr. Talley’s daughter, Elizabeth, lives two doors down from her father. Her home was untouched by the storm, but her father’s residence is likely a complete loss. “I’m just glad my dad’s alive,” said Elizabeth Talley.

Although he was uninjured, one of Mr. Talley’s horses was badly injured by flying debris and had to be put down. The shed behind his house also received severe damage.

By the next day, Elizabeth Talley said, her father was out on his livestock farm working to clean up after the tornado. Many neighbors converged on the scene Saturday to help with hauling off the remnants of the shattered roof and debris from trees that were snapped off high up their trunks. “Make sure to thank everyone who came out to help,” she emphasized.

Inside her own home Friday night, Talley said she lost electricity, but the odd thing about the storm was the sound it made. “That wind didn’t sound right,” she said. “It only lasted for a few seconds. It was so quick. We had no alert, no alarm, no anything.”

Only later, Saturday night, did the National Weather Service in Blacksburg confirm the existence of the tornado — estimating it traveled two miles on a path 300 feet in maximum width.

Steve Dishman, the county’s emergency services coordinator, was at the scene over the weekend and said all indications pointed to a storm that was sudden and fierce: “I think we’re going to get some indication it was a short-lived tornado,” he said Saturday afternoon before the formal declaration by NWS.

Triangle, Liberty and Halifax firefighters and emergency personnel and members of other local departments responded quickly Friday night to lend assistance, but travel on Hundley Road was hampered by toppled trees and limbs that blocked the roadway. Utility crews were able to restore power to most if not all residents before the night was over, said Dishman.


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