VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Officials assessing tornado damage in Virginia Beach said its path was over four miles long with peak winds of almost 150 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Wakefield, Virginia, confirmed that the tornado that hit the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach on Sunday evening was EF-3 strength.
Records indicate it's the strongest tornado to hit the city, with the worst damage along Haversham Close. No injuries were reported but at least 115 buildings were damaged.
The NWS report said "well-built homes" were shifted off foundations, exterior walls were collapsed and roofs were removed.
It's the first reported tornado in Virginia Beach to reach EF-3 strength, according to NOAA records, with wind gusts exceeding those of the largest hurricanes recorded around the city.
The Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale classifies tornadoes into the following categories:
- EF-0 - 65 to 85 mph
- EF-1 - 86 to 110 mph
- EF-2 - 111 to 135 mph
- EF-3 - 136 to 165 mph
- EF-4 - 166 to 200 mph
- EF-5 - Anything above 200 mph
According to the NWS report, the tornado formed over the eastern branch of the Lynnhaven River. It then progressed up River Road as an EF-1, passing by the Great Neck Recreation Center.
The twister then intensified to an EF-2 as it moved into the Chelsea neighborhood. It reached homes along Haversham Close with its maximum EF-3 intensity.
The NWS said the tornado crossed Broad Bay and the eastern portion of Bay Island, clipping Windward Shore Drive as an EF-1. It then moved over First Landing State Park and into Fort Story as an EF-1, before finally moving offshore
Virginia Beach Director of Emergency Management David Topczynski said that the city got lucky because the storm blew in at the end of the Something in the Water music festival, where an emergency operation center was already set up, allowing for a swift response.
The tornado caused an estimated $15 million in residential damage, with nine homes destroyed, the city said in a Monday afternoon news release. Another 36 homes sustained major damage that made them unlivable, while “many more” had significant damage, the city said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.