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Tornado hits Virginia Beach, likely damaging hundreds of homes and triggering state of emergency

Powerful tornado hits Virginia Beach
Powerful tornado hits Virginia Beach 00:39

The City of Virginia Beach declared a state of emergency after an EF-3 tornado moved through the area Sunday and damaged dozens of homes, downed trees and caused gas leaks. 

There were no immediate reports of injuries and authorities said Monday that they did not need to extricate anyone from beneath the rubble of collapsed structures. However, they noted that rescue attempts were made amid the severe weather.

City officials said it's unclear how many homes had been damaged but they estimated between 50 and 100, after the tornado touched down just after 6 p.m. Patrick Duhaney, the city manager in Virginia Beach, said "hundreds of homes" were likely impacted during a news conference on Monday morning.

"We've had a lot of tremendous response from our first responders and also a lot of other city employees," Duhaney told reporters. "We don't have all the answers right now. we're working to get a whole host of information regarding to what extent the damage was, but we do know there's been hundreds of homes that likely have been impacted."

The Virginia Beach Fire Department shared dramatic drone footage of the damage on Facebook. "Our hearts go out to the Great Neck community and all those impacted by last night's storm," the department wrote. "We are grateful that no lives were lost."

Our hearts go out to the Great Neck community and all those impacted by last night’s storm. We are grateful that no lives were lost. We wanted to share some footage our drone captured last night with the community. #tornado #VBStrong #communityhelpers #disasters @CityofVaBeach #firefighters #firstresponders FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency Virginia Beach Professional Fire & EMS Virginia Beach City Government

Posted by Virginia Beach Fire Department on Monday, May 1, 2023

Meteorologists have classified the twister as an EF-3 tornado, the National Weather Service confirmed. The rating, which falls in the middle of the Enhanced Fujita — or EF — scale that ranks tornadoes between 0 and 5, means a tornado is "severe" with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour, according to the agency. Scientists use the EF Scale to approximate tornado wind speeds based on the damage it has caused. 

Damage assessment teams continued to survey the area on Monday as officials worked to come up with a more concrete evaluation. Public safety personnel have so far searched 115 damaged structures, according to an emergency management representative who suggested that the area will remain under a state of emergency declaration for quite some time. 

Three local schools remained closed on Monday, as the superintendent cited transportation "challenges" in impacted areas.

"Based on the debris signature on radar, damage reports, and videos of the storm, we can confirm that there was a tornado," the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia said in a tweet.

Much of the damage had been reported in the area of River Road and N. Great Neck Road. It also includes Upper Chelsea Reach and Haversham Close.

Virginia Natural Gas responded to several homes with gas leaks and Dominion Energy was reporting just under 1,000 outages early Monday.

Three schools were closed Monday due damage from the storm, the school district said.

As a result of the severe weather, the Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach announced all events for Sunday, the third day of the festival, were canceled.

"No one wants to make this call, but we cannot predict nor negotiate with the weather tonight. It is our responsibility to ensure public safety above all else," Duhaney said. 

The severe weather in Virginia Beach came after thunderstorms, large hail and at least one confirmed tornado hit Florida on Saturday.

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