Adam and Ashley Mayo were spending a relaxing week at the Monroe Bay Campground near Colonial Beach when things changed in the blink of an eye Friday evening.
At about 7 p.m., rain started to fall. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a fierce storm swept through the campground.
Heavy rain and hail poured down and howling wind tore up trees and toppled campers. Debris, trashcans and tables whizzed through the air, Ashley Mayo, 33, said Saturday.
The couple fled their mobile home, which is close to Monroe Creek’s shoreline, and ran to a friend’s nearby camper, where he held the glass sliding door closed. The Mayos held on for dear life.
“That damned camper was lifting off the blocks,” Ashley Mayo said. “It was so loud you couldn’t hear anything.”
The Charlottesville-area couple said the storm lasted only about five to 10 minutes, but seemed like forever.
“Worst thing I’ve ever been through, I can tell you that,” said Adam Mayo, 36, who described the storm as “unbelievable.”
The couple said the storm was the worst they’d seen in the 10 years they’ve used the campground as their getaway.
The Mayos avoided major damage to their camper, vehicles and their boat, which was so full of water and hail that it nearly sank. Adam Mayo said a tree fell on his father’s truck nearby and probably totaled it.
There was other damage throughout the campground. Several mobile homes either toppled over or were hit by falling trees. Buzzing chainsaws echoed throughout the campground Saturday as crews were busy clearing up the mess caused by dozens of felled trees.
The Mayos consider themselves lucky to have escaped the storm mostly unscathed, as do many others who experienced the storm, which appears to have been isolated mostly to the campground area and Colonial Beach.
A Colonial Beach firefighter suffered leg injuries when saturated ground gave way and sent a fire truck tipping onto its side, but otherwise there were no reports of serious injuries.
Dominion Virginia Power spokesman Mike Duffy said the storm knocked out power to more than 3,000 customers in and around Colonial Beach. As of early Saturday evening, about 2,000 customers still had no power. Duffy said most Dominion customers were expected to have power back sometime Saturday, but he added that it will probably take days before all electricity is restored.
Most of the south side of the Potomac River town, from Boundary Avenue to what’s known as “the Point,” was shut down Saturday, with Virginia State Police cruisers blocking off numerous streets and crews sawing felled trees and fixing power lines.
There were unconfirmed reports that the storm toppled some 50 utility poles in the area.
A curfew was set up in to keep people from walking or driving in the most heavily damaged area after 10 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s still dangerous,” Colonial Beach Police Chief Danny Plott said during a media briefing Saturday afternoon. He explained that more trees could fall and that there could still be exposed power lines.
Colonial Beach Fire Department Chief David Robey said early estimates show the storm caused more than $1 million in damage to numerous houses. One house was destroyed, six severely damaged and 25 others were “impacted by the storm.”
The American Red Cross helped find shelter for one family and provided dinner for other residents Saturday.
Plott and Robey said the storm also damaged nearby marinas. They said the roof collapsed at the Boathouse Marina, but luckily there were no injuries.
While there has been conjecture that a tornado struck, Robey said National Weather Service officials told him the storm had “straight-line winds” reaching about 70 mph.
Plott and Robey praised the response by the numerous agencies involved and said they felt lucky there were no serious injuries or deaths. They also noted there is a lot of cleaning up to do.
“There are power lines down all over the place,” Plott said. “It is simply a mess.”
“Worse thing I’ve ever been through, I can tell you that.” —ADAM MAYO,
mONROE BAY CAMPER