According to the National Weather Service, a tornado did not touch down in Carroll County early Friday morning, but straight line winds estimated between 80 and 85 miles per hour caused heavy damage on Coon Ridge Road.
Phil Hysell, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with Blacksburg’s National Weather Service office, spent much of Friday morning working in coordination with Carroll County’s Emergency Management department, which conducted storm surveys of the damage Friday.
“Based on our conversations and photos and patterns of the damage, we have concluded it was caused by straight-line winds,” Hysell said. “I have had some people share photos of the damage with me, and based on those photos I would estimate the winds were over 80 miles per hour, probably between 80 to 85 miles per hour.”
Tornado or not, the storm certainly caused major damage to several homes and buildings on Coon Ridge Road. Hysell said radar estimates show the storm hit hardest in Carroll County at about 2:40 a.m., with radar showing a line of thunderstorms coming through with a linear configuration indicating strong winds.
“The difference is basically in the pattern of wind speed. A tornado is a violently rotating column of air from the base of a thunderstorm in contact with the ground,” Hysell said. “I suspect the damage in Hillsville was caused by a microburst, which is basically a very localized column of sinking air producing damage that is divergent and straight line at the surface.”
Hysell said Hillsville and a section of Northwestern Henry County appeared to be the hardest hit by the early Friday morning storms, with both areas suffering damage to structures.
Thankfully, no one was injured in Carroll County by the storms, Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Mike Musser said.
“We had some people that went out last night as a response measure and everybody was okay. Troopers who did respond did a house-to-house check to make sure everybody was okay and worked on traffic while (the Virginia Department of Transportation) worked to get roads opened up,” Musser said.
Hysell said the early Friday storm should serve as a reminder to folks how important it is to receive weather warnings as well as to know what to do when a warning is issued.
“It is so important to know where to go when a warning is issued and have a plan in place with your family or where to go and meet if you are separated,” Hysell said. “I think this event was a wakeup call if you are not prepared, you need to be.”