Officials: 1 dead, several homes damaged after wind rips through Peninsula Friday

One man died and several homes were damaged after wind knocked down power lines and trees and caused fires on the Virginia Peninsula Friday, officials said.

Wind gusts, caused by a nor’easter moving through the region, at one point were reported in excess of 55 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Firefighters, police, Dominion Energy and Virginia Department of Transportation crews spent the day responding to several minor and major incidents resulting from the wind.

“Trees and power lines (are) all over the place,” Hampton Division of Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Anthony Chittum said Friday afternoon.

Major impacts

A man died in James City County when a powerful wind gust toppled an oak tree and power lines onto a work truck on Newman Road Friday afternoon, according to Deputy Police Chief Stephen Rubino.

Another man became trapped in the truck and had to be extricated, Rubino said.

In Newport News, wind caused flames to spread from a burning home to two neighboring homes in the 2600 block of Roanoke Avenue. The first home was gutted by fire, and the adjacent homes were damaged, according to Battalion Chief Wesley Rogers.

Firefighters arrived and found the first home fully involved in flames, Rogers said. Crews worked for nearly an hour to get the fire under control.

Fire officials are not yet able to say if the original fire was related to the weather, but the wind significantly impacted the incident, Rogers said.

“(The wind) makes it extremely difficult … for crews to work to get their hose lines where they need to go,” he said.

Newport News firefighters also responded to two incidents where trees fell onto homes, according to Rogers. The first was in the 200 block of Sanlin Drive. The second home, in the 300 block of Piez Avenue, was also damaged by fire. The tree and lines fell onto the house, and the damaged wires sparked a fire. Flames damaged the deck and spread into part of the home, he said.

No injuries were reported in any of the Newport News incidents, according to Rogers.

In Hampton, firefighters responded to a smell of smoke in the first block of Whitaker Avenue. There, they found three homes with electrical issues, according to Battalion Chief Anthony Chittum.

The electrical issue caused a fire that damaged two of the homes. One was significantly damaged, Chittum said. No injuries were reported.

In Yorktown, an SUV was damaged on Stratford Court after high winds blew a chimney down onto a vehicle, York County Fire & Life Safety said on Facebook.

“Thankfully no injuries were reported, but we caution you to be mindful of the impacts of high winds,” the post states.

Firefighters also responded to several other fires related to the weather, according to Rogers.

Small fires were sparked when live power lines fell onto the ground and ignited the vegetation, he said.

“Dominion Power has been out like crazy (today),” Rogers said. “It’s actually electrical issues that caused the majority of (the fires).”

Power outages, forecast

More than 36,000 Dominion Energy customers were affected by power outages in Hampton Roads since Thursday night, according to spokeswoman Janelle M. Hancock.

Dominion crews have been working around the clock to restore power. About 87 percent of customers had power restored by Friday evening, she said in a news release.

“We follow a priority with our restoration process: First, we restore power to critical infrastructure, like 911 call centers, fire, police, hospitals,” Hancock wrote in the release. “Then we focus on restoring large blocks of customers, then smaller neighborhoods and so on to ensure it’s an efficient process and restores the most costumers in the least amount of time.”

Hancock emphasized that live power lines are dangerous.

“We want to remind folks not to ignore a power line on the ground or sagging into a tree — it could be live, and anything it touches could conduct electricity,” she wrote. “If you see this, call us immediately to report it so we can make it safe.”

Hancock also asked that motorists watch for workers along the roadways and to slow down.

“We want them to return safely to their homes after work is done,” she said.

The Peninsula-area could continue to be affected by the storm through Saturday. A National Weather Service High Wind Advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. Saturday.

Saturday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high temperature of about 49 degrees and a low of about 38.

Winds are expected to be highest in areas along the coast. The forecast out of the Langley Air Force Base predicts winds out of the northwest, 25 to 28 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. Overnight, winds will be out of the north, with speeds 22 to 25 mph and gusts as high as 36 mph.

A Coastal Flood Advisory will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for the cities of Hampton and Poquoson, and Glocuester, Mathews and York counties.

“Shallow flooding is expected in the most vulnerable locations near the waterfront and shoreline resulting in a low threat of property damage,” the advisory states. “Expect around one foot of inundation in low-lying, vulnerable areas. Some roads and low-lying property including parking lots, parks and lawns near the waterfront will experience shallow flooding.”

Virginia Gazette reporter Jimmy LaRoue contributed to this report. Ketchum can be reached by phone at 757-247-7478.

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