by Leonard Shapiro
For Middleburg, it was the summer storm of the century, a snarling, swirling, hail-spitting deluge that wreaked havoc throughout the village and surrounding areas. It hit late on a wild June 16 day that also included an earlier freakish gas leak that forced the evacuation of the town office, Safeway and other nearby buildings.
The gas leak occurred when a private contractor working on the old Mosby Tavern building inadvertently hit a gas line. The gas was turned off almost immediately and after several hours, repairs were made and it was back to business as usual, including the seemingly endless roadwork all around town.
Thunderstorms were predicted, but no one expected tennis ball-sized hail, 70-mile-an-hour winds and horizontal rain. There’s no official dollar damage estimate yet, but town administrator Martha Semmes said “I assume it’ll be in the millions. It’s overwhelming when you think about the level of damage.”
Car windshields and frames, windows, gutters, skylights and roofs took the brunt of the damage. Debris from fallen branches and leaves was everywhere.
“It put everyone pretty much in shock when you came into town,” said Punkin Lee, president of the Middleburg Business and Professional Association. “The carpet of green leaves on the streets was pretty creepy. But people are rallying.”
State Farm Insurance pitched a tent and set up a mobile trailer office at Hill School a week later. Their “catastrophe team” was examining 40 cars a day for estimates; many were totaled. Other insurance adjusters were working around town to assess home, office and shop damage.
At Salamander Resort, more than 100 vehicles in the parking lots suffered major windshield and body damage. At Hill, where a faculty/board event was taking place when the storm hit, 42 vehicles had to be towed away. A Hill school bus, three mini-busses and a van were damaged, and several building windows were smashed.
The Town of Middleburg lost its entire fleet of police cars and had to borrow a cruiser from the Loudoun Sheriff’s office. There was major damage to the slate roof at the town’s health center and to the metal roof at the water treatment facility. The Pink Box also had windows blown out.
“It’s certainly the worst thing I’ve ever seen here outside of a major snowstorm,” Semmes said. She estimated several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage to town facilities and vehicles, but said she’s been told none of the town or individual losses will be covered by county or state disaster relief funds.
Among local businesses, The Fun Shop had a double dose of disaster. In the first storm, the roof was severely damaged and water came pouring into the second floor. When a second storm hit five days later, the main floor ceiling collapsed, damaging or destroying merchandise and fixtures.
“We’ve been hit hard by both storms,” Middleburg Mayor Betsy Allen Davis, the Fun Shop owner, wrote on Facebook. “The first one last Thursday closed the upstairs in our main building and the one this past Tuesday ruined the main floor, as well. I can’t begin to tell you how devastating this has been. But with family, friends and wonderful employees, we will reopen!”
They did, eight days later.
Best of all was the news that no one was believed to be injured.
“Everybody was okay, that’s the main thing,” Semmes said. “Considering the sheer force and size of the hail stones, someone could have been seriously hurt. We’re very fortunate that didn’t happen.”