An EF-1 tornado in Fredericksburg and intense straight-line winds in Spotsylvania damaged homes and left thousands without power Friday night.
"The tornado touched down at 6:36 p.m. EDT on the Westwood Shopping Plaza, ripping off roofing materials and ventilation units," the National Weather Service said in a preliminary report released Saturday night. "It traveled northeast through a residential area, uprooting and topping trees and causing roofing damage."
The path was about 3/4 of a mile long and peak winds were 90 miles-per-hour, the NWS said.
The tornado passed just west of Hugh Mercer Elementary School and the adjacent police barracks. It then tore the roof off some apartments at The Commons at Cowan Boulevard and threw it across the street, according to the NWS.
"A law enforcement officer saw the tornado cross Cowan Blvd. and then dissipate before it reached Mary Washington Hospital at 6:37 p.m.," the report said.
Between 6:05 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. Friday, straight-line winds traveling southwest to northeast through Spotsylvania County felled trees and tore roofs off buildings, according to the NWS. Maximum wind speeds were estimated at 80 miles-per-hour in some locations.
"While there were pockets of wind damage countywide, there were a few areas where the damage was more consolidated and exceptional," the NWS said. This included the western tip of the county, in the Belmont area near Lake Anna. It was here that one home had its side pushed in by the wind, the NWS reported.
The National Weather Service assessment team came to the area Saturday to determine what type of weather event had hit, Fredericksburg Deputy Fire Chief Mike Jones said. No storm related injuries were reported by police or fire personnel.
Straight-line winds are most often responsible for most of the damage associated with thunder storms, according to the NWS. They do not rotate like tornado winds. Down-bursts and Derechos are categories of straight-line winds.
The Enhanced Fujita (EF) ratings for tornados were developed in 1971 by Dr. T. Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago, according to NOAA National Climatic Data Center. The ratings estimate maximum wind speeds in these categories:
- EF0 = 65-85 mph
- EF1 = 86-110 mph
- EF2 = 111-135 mph
- EF3 = 136-165 mph
- EF4 = 166-200 mph
- EF5 = 200 mph and higher
Tornado Watch In Effect Until 10 p.m.
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