A mix of microburst, straight-line and tornadic winds was responsible for damage in Pulaski and Giles counties on Friday evening, the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg determined after storm surveys on Saturday.
A tornado touched down in the Bella Vista community north of the town of Pulaski about 8:10 p.m., the weather service said, with a path extending ¼ mile in length and 50 yards in width along Blevins Lane and Sunrise Drive. The tornado, estimated to have top winds of 95 mph, was rated EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which ranges from EF0 for minor damage to EF5 for catastrophic damage. “Numerous trees were found along the path with tornado-like damage characteristics, separating them from the numerous others with the straight-line wind event that co-existed under the discrete cell,” the weather service said in its survey report.
Straight-line wind damage was noted nearby in the Bella Vista community, including the felling of many trees and “minor structural damage that mainly involved shingle damage to homes” along a 1.65-mile-long, 0.6-mile path, with winds also topping out at 95 mph.
Damage from a microburst — a sudden downburst of winds that radiates outward from a center point — was also noted in southern Giles County, near the Pulaski County line. Wind estimated at 90-95 mph blew down many trees in that area.
At its peak, about 1,500 Appalachian Power customers were without electricity in Pulaski County, but all but a handful of those outages had been restored by Saturday evening.
Pulaski County was under a severe thunderstorm warning at the time of the damage, as a rotating thunderstorm known as a “supercell” moved southeastward ahead of a cold front bringing much drier and slightly cooler air to the region over the weekend.
Friday evening’s storms may have rekindled bad memories for many residents of the nearby town of Pulaski, which suffered $5.25 million in damage with nearly 300 homes damaged in the April 8, 2011, tornado that was rated EF2. That tornado also formed in a supercell moving southeastward along a boundary between cooler, drier air to the north and warmer, more humid air to the south.