Isle of Wight, Surry spared the worst of Isaias

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2020

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By Stephen Faleski and Nate Delesline III

Tropical Storm Isaias brought down trees and power lines in Smithfield and Isle of Wight and Surry counties, but the communities were generally spared from any major storm-related damage or disruptions.

Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings said the town experienced only a minor issue. “The biggest area of impact I am aware of is down Smithfield Boulevard,” Stalling said in an email. “There were several trees down that fell on power lines. Otherwise, the town fared pretty well.”

According to Surry Emergency Services Chief Ray Phelps, the county received no reports of storm-related property damage from county residents, and all roads, save one, were passable as of midday Aug. 4.

As of shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday, Brownsview Lane near the town of Surry remained closed due to a downed tree and power lines. The others, which had closed early Tuesday morning due to high water, have all reopened.

The National Weather Service reports Surry received just over four inches of rain from the storm, with wind gusts ranging between 40 to 50 miles per hour. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the county shortly before 2 a.m. on Aug. 4, which extended through 2:15. According to NWS Meteorologist Mike Montefusco, a radar-confirmed tornado was recorded within county limits during this time.

According to, a radar-confirmed tornado, as opposed to one that is spotted visually by a meteorologist or local first-responder, is indicated when radar detects a “debris ball,” coupled with rotation. A debris ball occurs when a tornado touches down, lifting objects and debris into the atmosphere.

“One of our meteorologists will head out and look at the damage, and use software to quantify how strong the winds were,” Montefusco said, explaining that this would likely occur within the next few days.

Randy Pack, who owns and operates the Surry Seafood Company restaurant and hotel, said that as cyclones go, this was one of the easier ones, resulting in no flooding or storm damage at his property.

“We didn’t even lose power,” Pack said.

As of 2:30 p.m. Aug. 4, there were 2,637 Dominion Energy customers without power in Isle of Wight, 1,506 in Southampton County and 110 in Surry, according to spokeswoman Samantha Moore. Overall, the storm left more than 500,000 Dominion electric customers in the dark. The utility had earlier warned that some customers might be without electricity for several days.

“Crews are working as safely and quickly as they can to rebuild the damaged infrastructure. The hardest-hit areas include Hampton Roads — Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk and Newport News — and the Middle Peninsula including Gloucester and Northern Neck.”

Crews began assessing damage as soon as conditions were safe to do so, Moore said.

“We have supplemented our normal work crews with additional resources from other parts of our service area, as well as with contractors from outside our system,” Moore said. “As we continue to collect data from our damage assessments, we will bring in additional help as needed.”

Prince George Electric Cooperative, which also serves some Surry residents, reported just over 300 power outages — roughly 13% of its Surry clientele.

“We feel very fortunate that we had minimal outages and damage and we were able to mitigate many problems by making sure that our right of way was clear prior to this event,” said Renee Chapline, a spokeswoman for PGEC. “From what we could have seen, with the (storm) projections, we felt like we were minimally impacted.” The utility has about 12,000 meters.

Isaias brought both intense wind and rain, according to Jeff Orrock, the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Wakefield office. “Wind speed wise, there were some pretty strong wind gusts. Most folks got to at least 50 mph, with brief gusts to 60 mph.”

In Southampton County, all westbound lanes of U.S. 58 near Old Bridge Road (Route 742) remained closed as of mid-afternoon on Aug. 4, according to Holly Christopher, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Hampton Roads District. Christopher said VDOT was working with Dominion to remove power lines on the road.

She said dozens of downed trees were reported to be partially or totally blocking roads throughout the district as of midday Aug. 4. Crews were working to clear the debris as quickly and safely as possible. Christopher said major routes, including state-maintained interstates and primary roads were clear.

Jamestown-Scotland Ferry service was suspended at the height of the storm but resumed normal operations at 12:45 p.m. Aug. 4.

Although the storm has passed, Christopher reminded motorists to stay alert and watch for transportation or utility employees working along roadways attempting to remove debris. And, she added, “if crews have closed a road, do not attempt to drive around the barrier/signage.”

Orrock said the storm followed its expected forecast track, and carried a lot of energy. “It was a small storm and that’s why it brought us six hours, eight hours of rough weather.”