A woman was killed Monday evening in Henrico County when high wind toppled a large oak tree across Wilkinson Road while she was driving. Elsewhere in Virginia, two other people were killed earlier in the day as severe storms whipped up heavy wind, felled trees and knocked out power for tens of thousands of people.
The woman in Henrico was driving a red Toyota Camry west on Wilkinson Road between Brookfield Road and Chamberlayne Road, or U.S. Route 301, about 5:45 p.m. when the tree fell from the southern side of the road across several lanes and struck three vehicles, according to an officer at the scene.
The Camry’s driver was pronounced dead at the scene; her identity was not immediately released. No other injuries were reported. Two other vehicles were damaged, including a Ford F-150 truck.
Police said it was gusty wind that caused the tree to uproot. Wind gusts in the Richmond region reached speeds of 30 to 40 mph on Monday.
Henrico police said Monday evening that Wilkinson Road was closed in both directions and they did not know when it would reopen.
The two other fatalities were reported in Stafford County, just north of Fredericksburg, and in the town of Victoria, about 70 miles southwest of Richmond in Lunenburg County. Both deaths resulted from a tree falling into a home.
In Chesterfield County, a tree crashed through the roof of Franklin Boyce’s bedroom shortly after 2 a.m. and stopped only inches above where he and his girlfriend were lying in bed.
Boyce, 20, said the tree had been struck by lightning before it fell into the second floor of his home on Sika Lane in the Deer Run subdivision off Hull Street Road.
“All of a sudden, the whole room lit up — kind of like someone put a flashlight in your face,” he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.
“It felt like a bunch of weight was on us,” he said. “I breathed in a bunch of wood — sawdust, I guess. The noise was horrible. It was louder than any stadium or concert.”
Boyce said he and his girlfriend, Monica Banks, “freaked out for a few seconds” but then collected themselves. The couple, who graduated from Clover Hill High School in 2017, gathered up several pets from the home — two cats, a dog and a hedgehog — and got outside safely, along with Boyce’s mother, Marisa Conigliaro. The storm also left a dent in Banks’ car.
“I’m just thankful to be here, honestly,” Boyce said.
Chesterfield fire Lt. Jason Elmore said he could not confirm what caused the tree to fall on Boyce’s home. He said the county received reports of structural damage to four other homes after the storm.
At one point Monday morning, about 72,000 Dominion Energy customers were without power. The number of outages in the Richmond and Tri-Cities area peaked at nearly 29,000 at about 3:30 a.m. Chesterfield had the metro area’s largest number of outages, with more than 6,200.
Three Chesterfield schools — A.M. Davis Elementary, Swift Creek Elementary and Providence Middle School — closed early on Monday. Explaining why the schools initially had opened without power, the district said that while “other schools have had their power restored this morning, there are poles and power lines down in these services areas.”
Spotsylvania County officials reported that trees fell on seven homes in the county, most in northern Spotsylvania, but no serious injuries were reported there from the powerful storm that roared through the Fredericksburg area. Public schools in Spotsylvania were closed Monday because of widespread power outages.
Virginia State Police said the agency’s administrative headquarters in Chesterfield was closed Monday due to an ongoing power outage.
There were reports of trees and power lines down and road closures throughout the metro area. A Chesterfield school bus temporarily blocked a road after getting its rear tires stuck in a ditch. There also were scattered reports of trees, limbs and power lines down from Louisa County to Lunenburg County, and also in the Fredericksburg vicinity.
In Stafford County, a woman was killed and her husband injured when a tree smashed through a home. Deputies were summoned at 1:43 a.m. for assistance on Doyle Place and found the 78-year-old woman pinned beneath a tree. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her 82-year-old husband was taken from the home to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.
Authorities did not release the fatality victim’s name on Monday.
In the town of Victoria, a police officer patrolling the area noticed about 2:45 a.m. that a tree had toppled into a house near the intersection of Court Street and Park Avenue, said the town’s police chief, H.K. Phillips.
A woman in the home, identified as Lena Gaulding, had been fatally injured while she was in bed. Town officials said she was in her mid-60s. At least three other houses were hit by trees, although no other injuries were reported, Phillips said.
Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued ahead of the storm’s arrival. At 1:28 a.m., the National Weather Service in Wakefield warned of 60 mph gusts moving into the Richmond area based on Doppler radar.
The storms then strengthened as they moved east of the Interstate 95 corridor, and some began to show signs of rotation and possible tornadoes over the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.
Several tornado warnings were issued across the peninsulas between 1:36 a.m. and 3:26 a.m., though no sightings were reported.
According to the weather service, the only potential tornado damage found in the region was on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay in Dorchester County, Md.
In the Richmond area this week, dry weather will prevail through Thursday, but Friday’s chance of rain could arrive with another severe weather threat.