Fifteen years ago, in 1993, a strong F4 (winds of up to 260 MPH) tornado touched down in Colonial Heights, destroying the Wal-Mart store and killing three people, before tearing through Petersburg’s historic district. Well today, history seems to have repeated itself. A moderate tornado touched down in the exact same shopping center (Dimmock Square, near Southpark Mall). Is that eerie or what? I was only five years old the first time it happened, but (strangely) vaguely remember seeing it on TV. The Dress Barn and Target stores suffered blown out windows and minor roof damage, but for the most part there was no extreme structural damage.
It was a different story in Suffolk this evening. The same line of storms marched eastward (and strengthened considerably as they did so) and proceeded to completely flatten a portion Suffolk’s historic district, then went through a golf course community and completely wiped large, substantial homes clean off their foundations to the point where all that was left was a concrete slab beneath. This part was especially eerie to me because the neighborhood looked very similar to mine (Wyndham) from the aerial shot.
Suffolk is completely devastated. It looks like an atomic bomb went off the way the homes literally exploded with the extreme winds. At the time I’m writing this, there has only been one person confirmed dead, but unfortunately, it would be miraculous if the death toll didn’t rise, by the looks of the flattened neighborhoods. Hopefully it won’t, though. Virginia is no stranger to tornadoes, but usually experiences much weaker ones than this. This was extremely rare. Keep your thoughts and prayers with the Hampton Roads community during the aftermath of this immense, widespread natural disaster.
I find all of this very interesting since most of you know how much I like weather and storms. I flipped through the local news channels and hooked up my Comcast digital box to my Mac to record everything as it happened. Here are some screenshots from the live broadcasts I recorded from NBC 12 (WWBT), 8 NEWS (WRIC), CBS 6 (WTVR), and WAVY 10 (WAVY) (NBC affiliate in Norfolk, via live streaming on-air web simulcast).
1993 archive video footage of the destruction of the Southpark Wal-Mart (WRIC)
Meteorologist Jim Duncan advises citizens to take shelter during a tornado warning (WWBT)
Aerial image of Dimmock Square Shopping Center (perimeter highlighted in yellow) and the adjacent Wal-Mart store (now a Sam’s Club) that were both hit by tornadoes that followed the exact same paths in 1993 and 2008 (Blackwood Development Corporation)
Cars were tossed like toys in the Dimmock Square Shopping Center parking lot, in front of Target (WWBT)
A house suffers extreme damage in Suffolk (WTVR)
A Suffolk antiques shop is cut in half with almost no visible damage from the front or rear façades, but obviously the historic building is a complete loss (WAVY)
The owner of a car dealership snaps a picture through the front windows of his business as a huge tornado barrels through Suffolk (WAVY)