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Cana hit by tornado Monday

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Destroys convenience store.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

 

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UPDATED SEPT. 7, 12:45 P.M.

CANA — Bizarre weather continues to plague Southwest Virginia with the Sept. 5 storm in Cana being confirmed by the National Weather Service as the region’s 11th tornado this year.
That’s compared to the average of three for the 40-county area that the agency’s Blacksburg office covers in Virginia and North Carolina, said Phil Hysell, who the National Weather Service has dubbed the “warning coordination meteorologist” for the region.
Hysell came to Carroll County to survey damage left by a severe storm Monday that resulted in part of the roof of the Kangaroo Express in Cana being ripped off and tossed into the canopy over the gas pumps.
The meteorologist’s job in Cana on Tuesday involved tracking the storm on its southwest to northeast path, studying the damage and confirming whether it was a tornado or straight line winds that tore through the community the evening before.
He had to look at the whole swath of damage in order to make that determination, Hysell said.
Emergency personnel from Cana Fire Department and Cana Rescue, the Carroll Sheriff’s Office, Carroll Fire-Rescue and Virginia State Police had responded to a call of the partial collapse of the store after the storm passed through the area Monday.
County officials noted that two gas pumps were ripped up at the Kangaroo Express. Fortunately, an automatic shutoff valve worked and kept gas from spilling out of tanks and mingling with the deluge of rain that had fallen.
The winds had some serious force behind them, as shown by a piece of wood that flew through the air and penetrated one of the gas pumps.
Across U.S. 52, one building at a business called R&R Sales had a roof torn off and others had metal roofs peeled back.
The storm spared homes and a stand of mature trees to the north of the convenience store and a car wash immediately to the south.
Trees fell, power went down, rain collected on roads and washed gravel across the surfaces.
Hysell met Carroll Emergency Services Director Mike Mock at the convenience store and snapped pictures of the damage. They went to see if reports of problems on Brushy Fork Road were related and checked out a nearby residential road, Clearview Drive.
Hysell and Mock didn’t find a lot of damage away from the Kangaroo Express.
After seeing the damage to the gas station, Hysell flipped through a guide on wind speeds put together by engineers. The book told him that to grab the roof like it did and rip parts off and shatter the windows, the winds probably hit the store at about 80 mph.
“It did appear we had a weak tornado that touched down briefly right at the Kangaroo Express,” he told The Gazette. “From what we can tell, it must have lifted off very quickly.”
He would rate the storm that hit southern Carroll County as the weakest kind of tornado, with winds from 60 to 85 mph. Be that as it may, the Cana storm did add to the unusually high running total for tornados in Southwest Virginia for 2011.
Many of those tornados occurred during the April storms that caused four deaths in the Glade Spring community and massive damage there and in Pulaski.
Authorities reported that three people were in the Kangaroo Express when the storm struck. Two of those were transported to Northern Surry Hospital in Mount Airy, N.C., for treatment of minor injuries.
“You were very fortunate that there were only minor injuries with this event,” Hysell said.
Severe weather caused other problems Monday and Tuesday.

Reports also came in of downed trees and heavy rain, as the National Weather Service warned of possible tornados, severe thunderstorms and flooding for Carroll County.
Nick Fillo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, noted on Monday that rain gauges from Carroll recorded about 3.54 inches in Pipers Gap, 4.42 inches in Fancy Gap and Gladesboro and just under 5 inches in Woodlawn, all within a six-hour period.
“Obviously, it was a very heavy rainfall event,” the meteorologist said.
Now that it has confirmed the tornado in Cana, the National Weather Service office will document the storm so researchers looking at weather events can learn about trends.
Hysell said National Weather Service personnel would continue to try and trace what happened with a related storm in Wilkes County, N.C., on the same evening as Cana’s tornado.

UPDATED SEPT. 6, 1:27 p.m.

National Weather Service officials have pronounced the Monday evening storm that hit Cana a weak tornado, after surveying damage on the ground Tuesday.

Phil Hysell of the National Weather Service out of Blacksburg studied and took pictures of damage to the Kangaroo Express and across U.S. 52 at Clearview drive. He also went to Brushy Fork Road, where reports of other damage came in after Monday's storm.

Based on engineering reports for winds that can tear a roof off a building, Hysell estimated their speeds at about 80 miles per hour.

"It did appear we had a weak tornado that touched down briefly right at the Kangaroo Express," he told The Gazette. "From what we can tell it must have lifted off very quickly."

He would rate the storm that hit southern Carroll County as the weakest kind of tornado with winds from 60 to 85 mph.

This year has been unusually busy for tornadoes in the 40-county area that the Blacksburg office covers, Hysell said. While an average year has three confirmed tornados, this year there have been 11 — many of them occurred in April when Pulaski and Glade Springs suffered a great deal of damage from the storms.

"You were very fortunate that there were only minor injuries with this event," Hysell said. 

Now that they have confirmed the Monday tornado in Cana, the National Weather Service office will document it so researchers looking at weather events can learn about it. Hysell said the National Weather Service personnel will move onto what happened with a related storm in Wilkes County, N.C., on the same evening as Cana's.

ORIGINAL STORY FROM SEPT. 5:

CANA — Authorities believe that a tornado touched down in Cana Monday at around 10 p.m., destroying a convenience store on Fancy Gap Highway and causing other damage.

Emergency personnel from Cana Fire Department and Cana Rescue, the Carroll Sheriff's Office, Carroll Fire-Rescue and the Virginia State Police responded to a call of the collapse of a building after the storm passed through the area. The call reported the collapse of the Kangaroo Express station on U.S. 52.

There were people inside at the time, but deputies report that they made it out of the building alive. Rescue personnel took two people who had been inside the store to Northern Surry Hospital in Mount Airy, N.C., for treatment of minor injuries, according to Mike Mock, Carroll's emergency services director.

Officials on the scene characterized the convenience store as a total loss.

It appeared that part of the roof was torn off the convenience store and the awning over the gas pumps toppled to the ground, too. Wreckage landed on a parked car in front of the store.

Damage was also evident across U.S. 52 at a business called R & R Sales.

Reports also came in of downed trees and heavy rain, as the National Weather Service warned of possible tornados, severe thunderstorms and flooding for Carroll County. Nick Fillo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said a team from the agency would either visit Cana or study photos to see the damage to make an official determination about whether a tornado hit there or not.

Whatever they decide to categorize the storm as, it spared homes to the north of the store and a car wash next door to the south.

The National Weather Service would look for visual clues to whether the damage was caused by a tornado or straight line winds. That wouldn't happen until daylight on Tuesday. Part of the reason for that was staying out of the way while emergency crews worked.

He also noted that rain gauges around Carroll County were reporting between three to five inches of rain, most of that coming from a six-hour period. Fancy Gap and Gladesboro had 4.92 inches, while Woodlawn had slightly more at 4.96 inches. "Obviously, it was a very heavy rainfall event," the meteorologist said.