UPDATE (TUESDAY, 10:35 a.m.): The powerful, quick-moving storm that thrashed through the Fredericksburg area Monday evening knocked out power to thousands of area homes and businesses, closed schools, felled trees and left areas looking like what one official called a war zone.
“It was basically a mini-derecho,” National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Strong said Tuesday morning, as many in the region continued to clean up after the storm that brought violent winds through the area.
A derecho is a line of fast-moving storms with winds that can cause as much damage as a tornado.
Almost six years ago, a derecho blew through the Fredericksburg area and the eastern U.S., causing major damage and knocking out power to more than 160,000 in the region.
Spotsylvania, Orange, Caroline and Culpeper counties were hit hardest by Monday’s storm.
Strong said wind gusts reportedly reached upwards of 75 mph.
Steven Cooper, deputy chief with Spotsylvania Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management, said fire and rescue crews spent much of the night dealing with fallen trees. Virginia Department of Transportation crews also worked to clear trees, debris and power lines from roads.
Cooper said roadways looked like “a war zone.”
“I can’t even guess the number of trees down,” he said.
He hadn’t heard of any serious injuries or damage to homes. Crews did respond to cars damaged by fallen trees.
5:21 A.M. UPDATE TUESDAY: Crews have worked through the night to restore power in the Fredericksburg area.
REC has knocked the number of outages down from more than 30,000 Monday night to more than 15,000 customers out Tuesday morning. Dominion Virginia Power has nearly 10,000 customers still out in its Northern Virginia region this morning, down from more than 32,000 Monday night.
Spotsylvania County, which had to close schools Tuesday due to power outages and storm damage, still has the most outages at more than 7,500. Caroline County, which also closed schools, has about 3,800 outages between the two utilities.
In Orange County, about 4,000 customers from both utilities remained without power Tuesday morning.
The Northern Virginia and Northern Neck electric cooperatives were reporting only a few outages Tuesday morning.
ORIGINAL POST: Severe thunderstorms raced through the Fredericksburg region Monday night, leaving thousands of people without power, with Spotsylvania, Caroline and Culpeper counties being the hardest hit.
Trees were blocking primary and secondary roads around the region.
Spotsylvania County schools announced about 10:30 p.m. that it would close schools on Tuesday.
The school system issued the following statement: "Due to hazardous road conditions and widespread outages including to more than half of our schools, we are closing school on May 15, 2018. 12-month employees are code 2 as safety permits."
Caroline County followed suit Tuesday morning. "Due to last evening's severe weather, Caroline County continues to experience widespread road closures," the school system announced. "At this time two school facilities remain without power."
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative's outage website reported more than 30,000 customers without power at 10 p.m. Of that number, more than 13,000 were in Spotsylvania. Dominion Virginia Power was reporting more than 32,000 customers in its Northern Virginia region had lost power, with more than 8,000 of those in Spotsylvania.
Caroline had more than 5,000 customers out between the two utilities, and Culpeper had a similar number of outages.
The Virginia Department of Transportation advised motorists to exercise caution in Spotsylvania and Caroline due to downed trees and flooding.
Report downed trees, debris and other roadway hazards to VDOT's Customer Service Center 24 hrs. a day at 1-800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) or report online at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov.
The storm also slowed the commute home for Virginia Railway Express riders. The trains were halted briefly due to high winds and then proceeded slowly to watch out for fallen trees and flooding.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
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