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Residents Reflect After Damaging Storm

As the sun shone brightly Tuesday morning, residents across South Boston and throughout sections of Halifax County were shaking their heads in disbelief and retelling stories of storm damage sustained during the brief violent and costly storm that ravaged the area the evening before.

William Penick was driving his pickup truck with lawn mower in tow along North Main Street when the storm was pounding the area. Before he knew it, Penick said a tree fell across his truck bringing down power lines as the tree trunk barely missed the cab.

“I’m just glad to be here,” Penick told a passersby checking to see if he had been injured.

Traffic had to be rerouted around North Main into the evening due to the downed power lines.

Within eyesight of the downed tree on North Main, branches from trees snapped in two from the force of the winds lay intertwined with tombstones in Oak Ridge Cemetery. Flowers that had once been placed on graves of loved ones were scattered up and down Hamilton Boulevard.

People weren’t the only ones affected by the fierce storm Monday.

In one of the twisted mass of trees in Oak Ridge Cemetery, a lonely squirrel went about rebuilding his nest that now lay exposed in a tree trunk whose top was broken off in the storm.

Checkers, a 12-year-old Bassett hound belonging to Graham Bryant of Alphonse Dairy Road, found himself inside his dog house several feet in the air staring at the cloudy sky when an uprooted tree lifted his pen off the ground.

“The whole house was shaking as rain and hail hit against the roof, lightning was striking nearby, and there were several loud claps of thunder, and then it was over,” Bryant said.

When he went out to check on things, he said he found a downed pine tree on the family’s metal garage and underneath sat a demolished 2008 Malibu that had been driven less than 8,000 miles.

Across the yard he heard the whimpers from his frightened dog, who was hoisted into the air courtesy of an uprooted tree. After several attempts, Bryant said he was able to cajole the 80 pound bassett hound to the edge of the house, lifting him to safety.

Mary Russell, of Alphonse Dairy Road, reported storm damage along with many of her neighbors.

Meanwhile back in South Boston, Linda Bergett of Dogwood Drive said she kept hearing crackling sounds.

“We ran to the basement window, and it was hailing. My daughter came in and said she saw a funnel of wind that she had to outrun to get in the house. Then we heard a big wham when the top out of a sweetgum tree crashed onto the deck. Half of our deck is now slanting down, and our swing set is folded. We have about a half dozen trees with the tops out, and our gazebo was demolished,” Bergett said.

Frank Dance on Halifax Road along with many of his neighbors and others who live across the road in the Balmoral subdivision spent much of Tuesday cleaning up storm debris.

One house in the Balmoral subdivision sustained damage when a tree struck the rear of the house.

Eric Arthur Jr. and Lonnie Moore, both residents of River Road, also reported dozens of uprooted decade old trees and other storm damage on their properties.
The literary “You Can’t Go Home Again” turned to reality for Donna and Jonathan Chandler following Monday evening’s storm here.

In Danville during the storm, the couple returned to their Jeffress Street home only to be informed by emergency authorities that it was unsafe to spend the night there.

Strong winds had topped a large tree near their house sending branches slamming against the house and into the front yard. The branches broke a window, and roof slate and chimney bricks were dislodged, Donna Chandler said yesterday.

Tuesday morning Jonathan Chandler, surrounded by the tree’s debris, joined many other South Boston and Halifax County residents – cell phones in hand - calling their insurance agents.

Veteran Gazette-Virginian photographer Joe Chandler has covered harsh weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes for over three decades, and he ranks Monday’s storm “right up there among the worst.”

“When it first started out, I didn’t realize the extent of what had happened,” he said.

Traveling to his home on Forest Drive, Chandler said he photographed downed trees along Wilborn Avenue and one behind the physician’s pavilion at the hospital.

“When I got home I saw my next door neighbor’s home had been damaged, and there were large trees down all through my neighborhood. Some of my Beechmont neighbors told me there were lots of trees down on North Main and Jeffress,” he said.

Riding across town, Chandler said he quickly realized the extent of the storm.

“This was more than just a passing 25 minute thunderstorm,” he added.