Storms cause downed trees, power lines on Peninsula


When Andrew Cramer first started hearing hail Wednesday evening, he didn't think much of it. He kept doing his laundry and stayed away from the windows.

His son, Eli Cramer, was much more enthused. He immediately took out his phone and started sending Snapchat videos.

"Dad, dad, look at the front yard!" he said he told his dad.

When the storm was over, they both walked outside and saw two massive trees had fallen on their block on Hilton Terrace, next to Hilton Elementary School.

Andrew Cramer jokingly texted his neighbor: "Your tree is blocking the street. Can you come home and move it?"

Hilton Village was one of the areas most affected by heavy thunderstorms Wednesday evening, officials said. The National Weather Service issued a storm warning for Newport News and Hampton after severe storms were spotted near Christopher Newport University and Fort Eustis in the afternoon.

The storms came in two waves, said Alec Butner, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wakefield. The first was about 5 p.m., when hail and high wind hit Newport News and Hampton. The second came about 7:50 p.m. when a strong storm picked up around Langley Air Force Base. By Wednesday night, about 1,600 Hampton residents, 1,000 Newport News residents and about 1,200 Poquoson residents were without power, Dominion Power reported.

"It kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger," Robert Brooks, a Newport News park ranger, said at the scene.

The damage was mainly caused by the "quickness" of the storm, according to Hampton Division of Fire & Rescue spokesman Battalion Chief Anthony Chittum. He said his department responded to about six calls for downed trees and wires, the worst of which was a tree that fell on a house in the 2700 block of Verrell Street. The house was condemned, but it was vacant.

Newport News fire crews responded to 20 calls for electrical wires down and nine calls for downed trees, two of which fell on a car and house, said fire Chief Robert Alley. He didn't know where the car and house were located.

Both Hampton and Newport News fire officials said they didn't receive any reports of injuries.

Rafael Lugo wasn't home when his tree fell into his yard but said his wife called 911. The hail was so loud, she didn't hear the tree.

"We were really lucky. It just scraped the back of the house," he said.

The house didn't sustain any damage to the structure or interior. But, Lugo said, "it kind of sucks to lose the shade."

Eli Cramer also commented on how lucky the neighborhood was.

"Everything just misses it," he said. A large tree fell into the backyard next to his, only hitting a plastic lawn chair.

On Wednesday evening, Helen Jost, a foreign exchange student from Berlin, took photos of the tree on Hilton Terrace with Kathryn Dabbs, who said she's seen worse. She saw Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

"This isn't even close," she said.

Jack Shaver stood in a neon yellow vest directing traffic away from a tree that fell on Hilton Terrace.

He remembered going to Hilton Elementary School around the corner and seeing the massive tree that loomed over the houses.

"I saw that tree grow up," he said.

Mishkin can be reached by phone at 757-641-6669.

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