Remembering the 1993 tornadoes that ripped through Hampton Roads, Petersburg


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — August 6, 1993, started off as a relatively quiet day of weather across Virginia.

But a warm front moved in, skies cleared, the atmosphere cooked, and then a low pressure system moved in, making the afternoon unforgettable for people in a number of Hampton Roads communities.

18 tornadoes in total touched down from Petersburg, to Richmond, to Virginia Beach, and nearly everywhere in between.

Mobile homes blown were blown apart, just part of the miles of damage throughout James City and York Counties.

In Newport News, a funnel cloud spotted over the James River Bridge hit the ground running, spinning a 12 mile path into Hampton. 163 homes were damaged. Planes suffered damage at Langley Air Force Base.

MORE: The National Weather Service’s detail assessment

MORE: Revised report by the National Weather Service

Eight people were injured, but incredibly, no one died.

The hardest hit part of Hampton Roads was the Great Bridge section of Chesapeake, where an F-2 tornado (part of the old scale in measuring tornadoes) touched down.

In today’s terms, it would be classified as an EF-2. The tornado’s power was no match for dozens of homes in Etheridge Manor and Etheridge Woods, developments that sit east of Route 168.

But it all pales in comparison to Petersburg. An F-4 tornado with winds well over 200 miles an hour ripped apart a Walmart store, killing three people. 

The twister also hit another shopping center in Colonial Heights, and part of the downtown Petersburg. It peeled off roofs at the Petersburg old town district, causing extensive damage.

Nearly 200 others were injured in the Petersburg tornado, and one other person died.  The National Weather Service tallied damage from the outbreak to about $52 million.

In its report, the National Weather Service said it learned valuable lessons from the outbreak, including how businesses in large buildings like that Walmart store, should properly handle approaching tornadoes.

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