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Fast-Moving Storm Packs Winds Of Nearly 70 MPH

<b>A red oak tree with a trunk estimated at a diameter of four feet fell across Jeffress Street, crushed an SUV and heavily damaged a car and the front of this apartment building Monday afternoon during the storm that roared through South Boston and parts of Halifax County. (Joe Chandler photo) </b>

No injuries were reported when a fast-moving thunderstorm with winds approaching 70 mph roared through Halifax County Monday afternoon twisting and uprooting trees, breaking tree limbs and downing power lines.

Just over 9,000 Dominion Virginia Power and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative customers lost electrical power due to the storm, according to power company officials.

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for South Boston and Halifax County at 4:29 p.m. Monday afternoon, according to William Perry, National Weather Service meteorologist. The storm was moving east from southern Pittsylvania County into Halifax County at a rate of 50 mph at 4:46 p.m.

The strongest winds hit South Boston and east of town about 4:54 p.m., Perry said. The storm dumped one-half inch of rain in a period of minutes, Perry said. Some areas experienced hail with the heavy rain and strong winds.

“We estimated winds at 60 to 70 mph,” said Perry. “The strongest core of the storm ran through South Boston.”

From Halifax County the storm moved east-southeast into Mecklenburg County, Perry said.

Approximately 8,300 Dominion Virginia Power customers lost power in South Boston and Halifax County, said Daisy Pridgen, Dominion spokesperson. “South Boston was the hardest area hit by power outages,” she said.

Additional service personnel were brought in from Midlothian, Farmville and Altavista to assist local work crews. Pridgen said they worked throughout the night Monday to restore power, and as of Thursday morning approximately 900 customers remained without electricity. Company officials estimated service would be restored to most of those by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A total of 735 customers of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative lost power due to the storm, according to Brian Mosier, Mecklenburg Coop vice-president for business development. He said not all of those lost power at the same time, and Mecklenburg Coop work crews worked throughout the night to restore power to their customers affected by the storm. Only a handful of customers remained without power as of 7 a.m. Tuesday, and their power was restored Tuesday morning.

South Boston police officials called in an additional five officers to assist those already on duty Monday night, according to Captain B. K. Lovelace. “Our officers were kept busy checking for downed power lines and patrolling the downtown area,” Lovelace said.

Several streets were closed for periods of time due to fallen trees and downed power lines, Lovelace said. Those included North Main, Second, Third and Jeffress Streets, Washington Avenue and Berry Hill Road.

Jeffress Street remained closed Tuesday morning because of a massive red oak tree that fell across the street, crushing an SUV and damaging a car and an apartment building on the opposite side of the street. The tree’s diameter at the trunk was estimated at 48 inches, according to landscaper Ricky Rogers.

Four families, a total of eight people, lived in the apartment building on Jeffress Street, according to Halifax County Director of Emergency Services Kirby Saunders. “All of the occupants were unharmed,” Saunders said. “The Red Cross arranged for them to spend the night in a motel.”

“We received a lot of calls for broken trees and downed power and cable lines,” Lovelace said. “But fortunately there were no real problems with break-ins or anything else,” he added.

Lovelace said including Chief Jim Binner and himself, a total of 15 South Boston Police officers were on duty Monday night.

The Town of Halifax was spared the full brunt of the storm, according to Perry. “We saw a handful of trees down and some power outages, but they were scattered,” said Halifax Police Chief David Martin.

Calls concerning fallen trees and downed power lines began coming in to the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office at about 4:50 p.m. Monday, according to Sheriff Stanley Noblin. The calls were from Hyco Road, Huell Matthews Highway, River Road, Asbury Church Road, Oak Level Road, Sandy Beach Road, Jones Ferry Road, Murphy Grove Road, Berry Hill Road, L.P. Bailey Highway, Sinai Road, Jeremy Creek Road, Boyd’s Ferry Trail and Clays Mill Road, the sheriff said.

Officials with the Department of Emergency Management assisted with damage assessment, said Saunders. National Weather Service officials determined Tuesday morning the storm damage was caused by straight-line wind, not a tornado. Total value of the damage has not been determined, but Saunders estimated cleanup in South Boston would reach $60,000.

“We fared very well. First responders and fire department personnel were out providing services in the affected areas,” said Saunders. “Our first focus was to make sure everyone was safe, and it appeared that citizens listened to the warnings and took shelter,” he concluded.