Tornado strikes Smithfield

Published 4:06 pm Friday, July 9, 2021

A tornado touched down in Smithfield the evening of July 8 as fallout from Tropical Storm Elsa blew through the Hampton Roads region.

According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Cody Poche, the tornado is being classified as an EF-0 on the enhanced Fujita scale, meaning estimated wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph based on the agency’s survey of the damage. It touched down on Jordan Drive on the east end of town, Poche said, then traveled across the Pagan River to Blounts Corner Road.

Kim Taylor, a resident of Jordan Drive, said the tornado passed through the neighborhood around 7 p.m..

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“It was a little bit windy,” she said, but she didn’t see the sky suddenly darken or notice any of the other warning signs of a tornado being near.

She’d received the tornado warning Isle of Wight County had sent out via its IW Alert text message system, but her first indication that damage had occurred was when she heard a loud snap.

“All the neighbors came over to check to see if we were OK and I didn’t know what had happened,” she said.

She discovered a large tree in her front yard had snapped in half and had struck her home, but was relieved to find it hadn’t punched a hole through her roof.

“It could have been a lot worse,” she said.

Later that evening, the tornado had made its way to Blounts Corner Road, where Ronald Edwards was sleeping in his mobile home.

“It woke me up,” he said.

He estimates it hit between 9 and 9:30 p.m., but didn’t discover the damage to his home until the next morning when he was preparing to leave for work. The electric pole in his backyard that supplies power to his house had snapped in half, resulting in Dominion Energy cutting his power to shut off the live wires that had fallen on the ground.

Dominion’s online outage map shows 28 Smithfield-area residents still without power as of 2:50 p.m. Most can expect to have their power restored some time between 5 and 10 p.m., the website estimates.

But Edwards likely won’t be one of them.

“They said it’s not their pole,” he said. “I don’t understand.”

He’s not expecting his power back until he can hire an electrician to repair the damage.

“I’m not going to be able to stay here tonight,” he said. “My aunt is going to my cousin’s house. That’s where I’m going to have to go after a while. I’m just toughing it out a little bit.”

In his front yard, a tree his mother planted when she bought the house 20-plus years ago has been uprooted.

“I feel like each tree falls, kind of a part of me goes with it because my mother died in the house,” he said.

Surry County, on the other hand, seems to have been spared the worst of the storm.

“It was pretty mild for us,” said Kinsey Chilcutt, executive assistant to the county’s emergency management department.