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Cleanup continues in Franklin County after Friday's 159-mph tornado

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FRANKLIN COUNTY --- Delores Anderson is still in shock after a tornado destroyed her Franklin home Friday morning, but said she is thankful to be alive.

“I said ‘God let me live through this. I have grandkids I want to see grow up.’ And he did it. If I’d had stayed in the living room I’d be gone,” she said while fighting back tears.

Anderson, 63, said she had been keeping up with the weather on the news, and minutes after she retreated to her basement, the tornado struck her house on Windy Ridge Road in Sontag, just south of Rocky Mount.

She said could tell from the deafening sound that the tornado was getting close.

“I started to feel the wind sucking me and I just held onto a pipe in the basement. After that it just got quiet, real quiet,” she said.

Anderson said she and her family were truly blessed that hundreds of friends and neighbors had already come by to show their support.

"I’ve always tried to do for others,” she said. “You give and you’ll receive.”

A box truck full of water and food sat in the driveway early Saturday afternoon. Dozens of people helped clean up much of the debris that had been scattered across her 54-acre plot of land.

She said many of her keepsakes were able to be salvaged. Anderson was particularly excited that a cross-stitch picture of a hummingbird that her late father had made was recovered hundreds of feet from her home in the top of a tree.

In addition to the house being destroyed, hundreds of trees surrounding the property were torn apart, but Anderson tried to remain positive as she spoke to people coming that came to help.

“These are just material things, she said. We will build this back.”

Delores’ husband Larry Anderson said he’s been in touch with the insurance company, and everything should be covered from what he’s been told. An adjuster is coming to their home Monday. In the meantime they will be staying with their son.

An unoccupied rental house less than a mile away from the Andersons on Fishburn Mountain Road was also destroyed Friday morning. Owner Doug Wiley told The Roanoke Times that it was being renovated and he was just happy nobody was injured.

Cpt. Phillip Young from the sheriff’s office said a third house on Ashpone Tavern Road was also destroyed after a tree split the home in half. He didn’t have the names of the owners but said they were uninjured and staying with relatives out of town. Young said his office received reports of eight other homes with varying degrees of damage from the storm.

Sheriff Bill Overton said that there were only two injuries and both were minor. Debris struck one person and another was driving on U.S. 220 when a tree struck their truck.

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg officially categorized the tornado as an EF3 late Saturday afternoon. Tornadoes range from EF0-EF5, and are based on a variety of factors like wind speed and damage, according to NWS meteorologist Ben Gruver. Wind speeds for an EF3 are between 136-165 MPH.

The report said the tornado touched ground at approximately 10:25 a.m. and had an estimated top wind speed of 159 MPH. The maximum path width was determined to be 250 yards and the path length 8.2 miles.

An EF1 tornado was also confirmed in Bedford County between 11:22-1:25 a.m. Friday. The maximum wind speed was recorded at 93 MPH. The maximum path width was 60 yards. The tornado touched down for about three minutes and traveled 1.8 miles uprooting and snapping trees also destroying an outbuilding off of Centennial Road before dissipating, according to the NWS.

VDOT was working on tree damage in the median of U.S. 220 into the evening on Saturday and even had help from some local contractors who volunteered time and equipment to help, according to Overton.

“I’m proud of the way this community has responded to yesterday’s events,” he said. “It shows the care people have for one another and what a strong community we live in.”

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John Boyer

John Boyer, the RTD's staff meteorologist

John Boyer is the first staff meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the RTD newsroom in November 2016 after covering severe weather on television in Tulsa, Okla.

As a native of the Roanoke area, the region’s heavy snowstorms started his fascination with Virginia’s changing weather.

Boyer earned his degree in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He is a member of the American Meteorological Society and earned their Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal in 2012.

Look for his stories in the RTD and on Richmond.com, along with videos and forecast updates for major weather events in our area.

Email him your story ideas and weather tips.

Thursday Weatherline

More isolated storms possible today

Wednesday afternoon’s downpour was as localized as it was intense. Totals in excess of 2 inches quickly flooded some of Richmond’s streets, while the airport gauge had a mere trace. Be ready for hit-or-miss storms with flash flooding potential yet again today.

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