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Tornado touches down

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

It may have been minor, but the National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down near the Grayson/Carroll line on Martha's Knob Road on May 6.

According to the NWS office in Blacksburg, the tornado was on the ground for approximately 1.8 miles along Martha's Knob Road. The tornado's EF0 rating on the scale means wind speeds were 65-85 mph and it was about 15-20 yards wide.

The twister touched down around 10:25 p.m. near the intersection of Peaks Mountain Road and traveled east-northeast along Martha's Knob Road to the intersection of Dickey Road.

The NWS said several dozen trees were snapped or uprooted and one structure was slightly damaged by a falling tree.

After receiving several calls from the area, the NWS sent an investigator out to survey the damage. A preliminary investigation showed evidence of a twister.

Residents in the area described the sound to The Gazette as if a train were barreling past their homes.

According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management's Web site, Virginia has averaged 9 tornadoes a year between 1950 and 2007.

During that span, 539 twisters have touched down in the state, with about 80 percent (435) being classified as EF0 or EF1 — the weakest classifications.

Since tornado fatality records began in 1916, 65 Virginians have died from a tornado. According to the Web site, one-third of those deaths occurred during a tornado outbreak on May 2, 1929 — Virginia's worst such incident.

The Web site notes that the daily and annual records for tornadoes were shattered in 2004, when 87 tornadoes struck the Commonwealth.

Remnants of hurricanes Gaston, Frances and Ivan spawned nearly 80 percent of the tornadoes in a three-week period between Aug. 30 and Sept. 18. Ivan's remnants alone spawned 40 tornadoes on Sept. 7, 2004 — setting Virginia's record for the most tornadoes in a single day. The single day total also broke the record for number of tornadoes in a year. The previous record was 31 twisters in 2003.

Since 1950, Carroll County has only had three confirmed tornadoes, while Grayson has one and the City of Galax had zero.

A tornado often appears as a funnel-shaped cloud and typically extends from a thunderstorm cloud to the ground. Twisters can be anywhere from a few yards wide to more than a mile, with wind speeds reaching 250 mph or more.

Most tornados have wind speeds of 100 mph or less and weak tornadoes (F0-F1) often last only minutes.

• For more information on Virginia's tornado history visit VAEmergency.com.