Tornado damages up to 100 homes in Virginia Beach, city declares state of emergency

Dozens of downed trees, debris and damaged property littered the Great Neck section of Virginia Beach Sunday evening following a suspected tornado.

City Manager Patrick Duhaney declared a local state of emergency Sunday evening, and the city said the number of homes damaged in the storm was still unknown, but was estimated to be between 50 and 100. No injuries have been reported.

The city reported a tornado on the ground in the area of River Road and North Great Neck Road just after 6 p.m. More than a dozen homes along Upper Chelsea Reach and Haversham Close have been damaged, the city said in a news release. Virginia Natural Gas staff were onsite to assess several homes with gas leaks.

The National Weather Service confirmed seeing a debris signature for a tornado on its radars, which means meteorologists could see debris caused by the storm.

Virginia Beach Public Schools announced late Sunday that three schools in the Great Neck area will be closed on Monday.

Residents said the 2200 block of Haversham Close saw some of the worst damage, with some roofs partially removed and windows shattered. Dozens of firefighters worked Sunday night to cut down trees, and some stood atop roofs to assess damage. Tara Frey, who lives in the neighborhood, said she was washing lettuce from her garden when she heard the tornado alert, which prompted her family to hunker in place with their two dogs.

“I could literally feel the pressure drop in the house and I looked out the back and the wind picked up and the rain started and I just knew it in my gut that it was coming,” she said, adding that it lasted about 10-15 seconds.

Frey said she saw her neighbor’s boat fly by her window before it landed across the street in front of her home.

“It looks like I’m pretty lucky,” she said, adding that she lost her fence and a window was damaged.

Great Neck resident Heather Sweeney posted photos of some of the damage she saw on Twitter.

“I saw multiple large trees down on Great Neck Road, as well as a car that was damaged by fallen trees,” she said in a private exchange with a reporter. “Bystanders talked about the fear of gas leaks, and emergency vehicles were everywhere, blocking off street entrances and asking people to return to their homes.”

Councilman Chris Taylor, who represents District 8 where a tornado made landfall Sunday evening, said he was heading to the emergency management command post at Cox High School around 8 p.m. Taylor also said that no injuries have been reported as of 8 p.m., but the situation is still being assessed.

A temporary shelter for affected residents has been set up at Great Neck Recreation Center, located at 2521 Shorehaven Drive, and is open to those impacted by the storm. City staff told The Virginian-Pilot Sunday night that a few residents have stopped by but opted for hotel rooms. The center has basic supplies on site, with a separate space for those with pets.

When reached by phone Sunday night around 8 p.m., Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said he plans to be on site where the damage occurred Monday morning. “With the magnitude of the weather, we’re blessed that no one was injured,” Dyer said. “It could have been worse.”

Cianna Morales, 757-957-1304,

Reporter Katrina Dix and Stacy Parker contributed to this report.