5 storm deaths reported in Virginia

RICHMOND — Virginia authorities say four people drowned and a firefighter was killed, raising the Michael-related death toll to 11. Many lost power after a night of violent winds, flooding and even a few tornadoes.

“As we see, each time a storm hits, these storms are unpredictable,” Gov. Ralph Northam said at a Friday afternoon news conference. “Yesterday, a wide swath of Virginia — from southwest to Hampton Roads — suffered flooding high winds and tornado damage from this storm.”

Overall, Virginia got 4–8 inches of rain, with some areas getting higher totals locally.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jeff Caldwell said that four people drowned: three in the western part of the state and a fourth in central Virginia. Widespread flash flooding was reported along the Interstate 81 corridor, from Danville to Roanoke.

“We are seeing a major statewide impact from the storm, and we will have to continue to clean up and recover from this storm for several days,” Caldwell told WTOP.

A firefighter, Lt. Brad Clark, also was killed, he said, when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck while he was responding to a two-car crash on Interstate 295 in Hanover County during heavy storm conditions. Search and recovery efforts were underway Friday afternoon for a missing motorist as well, said Jeff Stern, state coordinator of emergency management.

The commonwealth’s Department of Transportation was clearing hazards on 1,200 roads, Northam said, 600 of which were closed. “We cannot stress enough that motorists should adjust their driving to the road conditions caused by any storm,” he said.

As of Friday afternoon, Dominion Energy was working to restore service to about 400,000 customers who were still in the dark after gusts up to 75 miles per hour and heavy rain damaged electrical infrastructure throughout the region.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Dominion Energy’s Ed Baine said the vast majority of effected customers should have their power restored by Monday.

“As we begin this multiday restoration effort, we appreciate the patience of our customers and urge them to stay safe and mindful of electric wires that may be hidden by downed trees or flooded streets,” Baine said.

“Early reports of damage include broken poles, cross arms and downed wire in many locations, as well as transmission lines impacted due to tree damage.”

In a news release, Dominion Energy confirmed “pockets of catastrophic damage” in portions of south-central Virginia, and significant damage in central Virginia. The company said priority would go to restoring power for critical services including hospitals, police and fire departments, and water systems.

The most widespread impact in the WTOP listening area were south of D.C., especially in Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Stafford County in Virginia, where a total of around 2,200 customers were in the dark as of noon. A spokesperson for Dominion Energy said most people should have their power back by later this evening.

Dominion Energy said a suspected tornado damaged one of its substations in Northern Neck, Virginia.

In addition, about 3,500 Rappahannock Electric Cooperative customers were still without power Friday evening, down from 12,000 at the peak of the storm. “Crews continue to encounter roads blocked by flooding water and debris, as well as saturated rights of way, making travel difficult in many areas,” officials said in a statement.

Caldwell said there were five tornadoes reported from Thursday into Friday morning, but the state is still awaiting confirmation from National Weather Service assessment teams.

Northam also urged Virginians to be ready for more tropical storms.

“Remember that the Atlantic hurricane season lasts through Nov. 30,” he said, “so we may very well see more big storms in the next six weeks.”

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli and Jack Pointer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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