The National Weather Service in Wakefield determined that two tornadoes ripped across Suffolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach on Friday after surveying the damage over the weekend.
The first tornado began 2 miles southeast of downtown Suffolk at 5:33 p.m. and took a 12.5-mile path across the Great Dismal Swamp before lifting near U.S. Highway 17 in Chesapeake. Based on damage to trees and outbuildings, the National Weather Service survey team estimated the tornado had 80- to 90-mph winds and rated it an EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
The same storm produced another tornado at 6:10 p.m. near Kempsville Road in Chesapeake. It tracked east and northeast to Princess Anne Road in Virginia Beach, eventually reaching EF-2 intensity. It spun up 120-mph winds at its strongest point, destroying a church near Centerville Turnpike. Though the wind speeds dipped slightly after it crossed into Virginia Beach, the tornado still damaged more than 100 homes.
The damage path from the second tornado was 8 miles long and 350 yards across at its widest point, and it dissipated before reaching Naval Air Station Oceana.
The only other tornado in the region was an EF-1 tornado that hit Bertie County, N.C., approximately 22 miles south of the Virginia-North Carolina border.
Straight-line winds gusted to 61 mph in Franklin and damaged an awning. The storms also produced golf ball-sized hail, heavy rainfall rates and flash flooding across Hampton Roads.
Those were Virginia’s first tornadoes since last Feb. 24, ending a 401-day period of inactivity. This was the longest gap between tornado reports in the state since the mid-1980s. A 477-day period in 1962 and 1963 stands as the longest statewide lull since modern tornado records began in 1950.
Prior to Friday, the most recent tornado in Suffolk was the destructive EF-3 tornado of April 28, 2008.
More severe storms could rumble across the Richmond area on Thursday morning. Check back with richmond.com/weather in the days ahead for more details about the stormy outlook.