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At least 15 tornadoes hit Virginia on Friday. For Charles City, it was the first in 26 years.

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A tornado with winds up to 135 mph tore through Charles City County on Friday evening, part of an outbreak that spawned at least 14 others in the state.

The storm didn’t injure anyone in Charles City County, but it blew down the roof and cinder block walls of a gun club in the Ruthville area, according to the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

On Monday, a team from NWS Wakefield surveyed the tornado’s path and released preliminary details.

At 7:46 p.m. on Friday, the tornado began just east of The Glebe Lane in Ruthville, about 25 miles southeast of downtown Richmond and about 5 miles south of Providence Forge.

After touching down, it uprooted and snapped trees along a 3.1-mile path, then weakened just northeast of Sturgeon Point Road at 7:52 p.m.

The Ruthville Gun & Rod Club building suffered the most significant damage in the area, which suggested the tornado had peak winds of 125 to 135 mph and a maximum width of 200 yards.

The debris lofted into the storm was detected by the Wakefield Doppler radar, 26 miles away.

Based on the damage, the survey team rated it EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Its winds were comparable to the deadly Chesterfield County tornado in September.

This is the first official tornado report from Charles City County since Aug. 6, 1993, the day of the fatal Tri-Cities outbreak.

The storm that spawned Friday’s tornado raced over the James River from Prince George County at 55 mph. A tornado warning was issued for the area at 7:42 p.m., four minutes before it struck.

Monday’s surveys revealed three more tornado paths in Gloucester County, Newport News, and a part of York County close to Williamsburg.

On Saturday, NWS Wakefield first reported details about tornadoes in Emporia and the counties of Louisa, Greensville, Southampton, Brunswick, Sussex, Prince George and Isle of Wight.

All of Friday evening’s tornadoes were embedded in a line of thunderstorms that surged northeastward out of North Carolina.

The storms that plowed through the region between Emporia and Williamsburg encountered the atmospheric conditions most favorable for tornadoes to develop.

The day’s most powerful tornado happened several hours earlier.

An EF-3 tornado with 159 mph peak winds set down in the rugged hills of Franklin County during the middle of the morning, further proof that no town or time of day is off-limits from severe weather.

That storm hurt two people, which were the only storm injuries reported in Virginia.

Additionally, tornadoes hit a rural section of Bedford County during the morning and Reston in Fairfax County in the evening.

That brings the preliminary statewide count up to 15 tornadoes, but the NWS plans to examine more damage on Tuesday and the count could rise.

This event will rank as one of the Virginia’s largest outbreaks by number of damage paths.

The remnants of Hurricane Ivan set the statewide record at 38 tornadoes on Sept. 17, 2004.

The federal Storm Prediction Center received dozens of tornado reports from the Florida Panhandle to Pennsylvania on Friday, along with nearly 600 reports of wind damage.

Check for John Boyer’s videos and forecast updates. Contact him at


John Boyer is the first staff meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the RTD newsroom in November 2016. Boyer earned his degree in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

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John Boyer

John Boyer, the RTD's staff meteorologist

John Boyer is the first staff meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the RTD newsroom in November 2016 after covering severe weather on television in Tulsa, Okla.

As a native of the Roanoke area, the region’s heavy snowstorms started his fascination with Virginia’s changing weather.

Boyer earned his degree in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He is a member of the American Meteorological Society and earned their Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal in 2012.

Look for his stories in the RTD and on, along with videos and forecast updates for major weather events in our area.

Email him your story ideas and weather tips.

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