Marcia Ward, looking at an enormous branch sitting on a nearby car, expressed gratitude Wednesday after a severe thunderstorm blasted through Culpeper.
“Actually I feel very lucky that the tree didn’t damage my house, which dates to 1930,” the homeowner said to a Star-Exponent reporter, gesturing to her house on W. Asher Street. “And also we’re very glad nobody was hurt.”
Neighbors of Ward said they heard a “tremendous crack,” and then the enormous pine tree actually split several directions, one large part falling directly on the car.
“But it’s quite a birthday gift for my sister,” she added, explaining her sibling had come to visit from Maryland to celebrate the day. “That’s her car.”
The storm dropped about two inches of rain in an hour, with accompanying 60-mile-per-hour winds, said the National Weather Service, downing countless trees and branches throughout the county which in turn took out power lines and blocked roads.
Culpeper County Emergency Coordinator Bill Ooten said soon after the storm that 3,658 Dominion customers were without power and 756 REC customers.
“I don’t have the Town of Culpeper numbers yet but I know most of the town is out,” Ooten said. “Just waiting for an update.”
By 8:15 p.m. most power had been restored. A report from the Culpeper Police said 600 customers in the High Point subdivision were waiting on repairs by Dominion to a substation there and approximately 40 customers were still out in the town.
Ooten said emergency services was reporting many downed wires and trees blocking roads.
“We just sent a dispatch to deal with a fire from a lightning strike,” he added.
Officer Julia Cole with the Culpeper Police Department said one family in town was displaced by a tree falling on their house, and is now receiving assistance from the Red Cross.
“My officers have responded to 28 storm-related calls for service, including eight trees down calls and two trees into structures,” Cole said in a text message Wednesday evening.
Brandon Fling, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, said winds reached speeds of more than 60 miles per hour with rain.
“The rainfall of two inches in an hour is pretty standard for a summer thunderstorm, but having that along with the winds can cause some serious damage,” Fling said.
He said there was no indication of any tornado-like weather, but the straight-line winds could possibly mean some kind of microburst went through.
“We won’t know for sure until we analyze all the data,” he said. “Might be a day or two.”
Emergency workers across the county were busy Wednesday night either addressing effects from the storm or attending the Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards ceremony at the Salem Firehouse.
With fire and emergency vehicle sirens echoing outside, the room was abuzz with storm stories. Power for the lights and food service, provided by Pepper’s Grill, was powered by generators due to the power being out in the area.
More than 160 people attended the event, which Chamber CEO Jeff Say announced they “didn’t even consider” cancelling because of the storm.
Soon after the storm blew through Culpeper homeowner Tim Hynes was out using a big steel chainsaw to chop up pieces of the giant tree in his front yard that had dropped several branches, missing by inches his neighbor’s house and car.
“I can’t believe how perfectly they fell,” Hynes said. “They didn’t damage anything, as far as I can tell. It’s really a miracle.”
Jennifer Catron was alone with her dog when she heard a loud noise outside her home in the 400 block of Morningside subdivision about 5 p.m. Wednesday.