UPDATE 4:20 PM: The Virginia Department of Emergency Management now says 4 were killed at Glade Spring. According to the Tornado Project, that would tie it with the 1993 Petersburg tornado for deadliest since Albemarle County’s 11 dead in 1959. The deadliest Virginia tornado on record killed 13 at Rye Cove in Scott County in 1929. There was also one death in Halifax County early Wednesday evening for a total of 5 dead in this round of tornadoes in Virginia, part of a total now topping 270 in six states. END UPDATE
UPDATE 3:30 PM, 4/28: Some historic perspectives, based on some quick research involving The Tornado Project, National Weather Service and Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
* The 7 deaths at Glade Spring are apparently the most deaths from a single tornado in Virginia since 1959, when 11 were killed near Ivy in Albemarle County — 10 in an apple pickers bunkhouse.
* The climbing death toll near 250 from the total outbreak is still 80 below the 330 killed in the April 4, 1974, Super Outbreak, and also below the 695 deaths from the 1929 Tri-State Tornado that traveled from Missouri to Indiana and 317 in the Natchez, Mississippi, tornado of 1840. But the toll is still climbing.
* There were 165 tornado reports on Wednesday. The Super Outbreak of 1974 produced 148 confirmed tornadoes in 2 days. It will be some time before the exact number of tornadoes becomes offiicial. Multiple tornado reports are often made for the same tornado, especially if it is a long-track tornado, so consolidating those in storm surveys will reduce the numbers. On the flip side, some new tornado tracks are often discovered, adding to the total slightly. The total number of tornadoes usually comes in about a third less than the initial number of reports, so if that is the case, it may yet come in under the Super Outbreak in terms of tornado quantity.
* If the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham tornado turns out to be a solid track from Mississippi to northwest Georgia, it could challenge the 1929 Tri-State tornado for longest track on record. That tornado had a 219-mile-long uniterrupted path. It is possible Wednesday’s storm was a long-track cyclic supercell putting down a series of tornadoes in sucession, rather than one continuous one — though undoubtedly some parts of the path were very long. END UPDATE
The storm threat is ending west to east for our region today … Bedford, Franklin, Henry and Patrick counties remain under a tornado watch a little while longer as the last of the storms pull east and northeast out of the region. Eastern Virginia may have more severe weather this afternoon and evening as the front pushes through.
The death toll across the South is staggering and likely to continue to climb, probably past 200. It is likely to be the most tornado deaths in a single tornado outbreak since at least 1974. At least 8 have died in Virginia, including 7 at Glade Spring in Southwest Virginia.
I will be writing for the paper — and linking it here — for Friday trying to put all of this in some kind of perspective, if that is possible.
In the meantime, I will link a couple of news reports where you can continue follow the updates:
Below is a list of storm reports from the National Weather Service in Blacksburg:
* Several trees downed at Willis in Floyd County, 6:15 a.m.
* Trees downed on Smyth Street and White Oak Street in Salem, 5:30 a.m.
* Trees downed near Pilot in Montgomery County, 5:10 a.m.
* Trees downed in Indian Valley in Floyd County on roads and houses, 2:40 a.m.
* Tree fell onto a house on Chestnut Ridge Road, Montgomery County near Copper Valley, 4 a.m.
* Rock slide on U.S. 460 in Tazewell County, 5 miles northwest of Richlands, 1:37 a.m.
* Heavy rain produced street flooding on Luck Avenue, First and Second streets, and Jefferson Avenue; 2 manhole covers were floated loose, city of Roanoke, 3:30 a.m.
* Rock slide blocked Pulaski-Giles Turnpike east of Pearisburg, 2 a.m.
* Several trees downed in Rocky Ridge area, Bath County, 1:15 a.m.
* Hail 2 inches in diameter near Poplar Hill in Pulaski County, 1:20 a.m.
* Hail 2.5 inches in diameter near Pearisburg, Giles County, 1:15 a.m.
* Hail 1.5 inches in diameter at Pembroke, Giles County, 1:20 a.m.
* Hail 1 inch in diameter at Newport, Giles County, 1:25 a.m.
* 63 mph wind gust, Max Meadows, Wythe County, 12:55 a.m.
* Funnel cloud, Sugar Grove, Wythe County, 12:30 a.m.
* Hail 4.5 inches in diameter, Saltville, Smyth County, 10:32 p.m.