An animal adoption center in Nelson County is recovering after a severe thunderstorm caused a massive tree to fall on its outdoor kennels.
Between 5 and 6 p.m. on July 22, Rose Fariss, employee at Almost Home, had just begun to clean the outdoor kennels at Almost Home Adoption Center on Stagebridge Road in Lovingston. A dog named Diego, one of the shelter’s residents, was with her outside when the weather turned from a slight drizzle to sheets of rain, heavy winds and claps of thunder in a matter of seconds.
“Trees were falling on us, limbs were flying by. It was very scary,” Fariss said.
According to Howard Silverman, with the National Weather Service, the storms July 21 to July 22 were designated as severe thunderstorms because of either possible hail accumulation or strong wind gusts of up to 55 or 60 miles per hour. Silverman said due to the reports of multiple trees down in Albemarle and Nelson counties, it’s very likely winds were in that range.
“It’s certainly possible winds could be greater,” Silverman said.
Silverman said although it’s hard to hyper-localize the amount of rainfall between July 21 and July 23 specifically in Nelson County, there was a significant amount of moisture in the atmosphere on July 21, which would cause a significant amount of rain to fall. According to a citizen report to the National Weather Service, about .44 inches of rain fell between the afternoons of July 22 and July 23 in the Rockfish area of the county.
“In localized areas, there is always the potential of an inch or more of rainfall,” Silverman said.
According to Central Virginia Electric Cooperative President and CEO Gary Wood, 1,763 accounts in Nelson County were out of power due to the storm on July 22 and all but 120 were restored by that night. Wood said the remainder were restored by midday July 23. Downed trees were scattered across the county, including one across Patrick Henry Highway near the Roseland post office. By July 23, most of the bigger trees across the main roads had been cleared, and throughout the week debris was cleaned up.
Farriss said due to the lack of cellphone service in the area, she received no weather alerts and had only remembered being told about some showers coming to the area later in the evening.
Fariss said she and Diego laid on the kennel floor as flat as they could and waited for the storm pass. While inside a big tree came crashing down on top of the kennels they were hunkered under. Fariss said the heavy rain and strong wind only lasted about 10 to 15 minutes and when the storm receded just enough, they made a run for it; through a tunnel of the downed trees, limbs, and leaves scattered back to the main building.
“Even now, it still feels like a dream,” Fariss said a few days later.
Due to the storm, Almost Home lost power and had about four or five trees on the property fall, although only one caused any damage.
“Everyone is fine,” Jerline Simpson, employee at Almost Home, said on July 23, despite a giant tree now strewn across the kennels and a portion of the main building. She said the dogs that would normally be in the outdoor kennels were inside the main building when the storm hit.
“Luckily they are very stable and well-built,” Fariss said.
Despite the drizzle, Brogran’s Tree Service from Buckingham was at Almost Home early July 23 getting the tree cleared off the kennel roof. Randall Phillips, treasurer of the board for Almost Home, said the company was a “godsend” and luckily the damage was relatively superficial.
“There are two holes in the roof we are working on patching now,” Phillips said on July 23, referring to the main building next to the outdoor kennel.
Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.