Several funnel clouds were reported over the University of Richmond campus on Monday afternoon.
There were five tornado formations across the city of Richmond, said Dave McCoy, associate vice president of public safety and chief of police.
At 3:07 p.m., an UR Alert was sent out to the university community that a tornado warning was in effect for campus until 3:40 p.m. Shortly thereafter, photos and videos were sent around by students showing a funnel cloud over Robins Stadium.
Senior Coleman Kissick, a member of the men’s lacrosse team, recorded a video showing a funnel cloud swirling above the stadium. He was walking back from the locker room with teammates when the alert was sent out, Kissick said.
“The clouds were pretty dark and started to do some swirling,” Kissick said. “We realized it would be a tornado. It got really, really dark and there were fast-moving leaves from the wind. We got shelter immediately.”
Senior Shannon Kane was off campus at ShoreDog Cafe, located in the Tuckahoe Shopping Center on N. Ridge Road, when she saw everyone in the cafe rushing to the window, she said. When she joined them to look, she saw a funnel cloud touch down near the intersection of Parham Road and Patterson Avenue.
“We looked at it and were like, ‘Is this really happening?’” Kane said. “Once we recognized it was actually happening, we ran down to the basement.”
Kane stayed in the basement of the cafe until around 4:15 p.m. when the warning was first lifted, she said, but when she went back upstairs she saw another funnel cloud forming outside. She went back to the basement until around 4:45 p.m., Kane said.
McCoy said he had not expected the warning to last so long once the first warning was issued.
Despite the long warning, some classes continued to operate. In the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business, senior Jessica Dugan was in Strategic Management when the alert was sent out. Her professor continued to conduct class despite the power going out, Dugan said. The classroom they were in was considered a tornado shelter so they did not have to relocate, Dugan said.
“He just started lecturing as if nothing had ever happened,” Dugan said. “Our laptops were still connected to wifi, so it was like a normal class but in the dark. It ended up being more interesting because we ended up having a discussion instead of a lecture. It ended up being a productive use of class time.”
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Other students sheltered in place throughout campus. Photos circulated of students in the Boatwright Memorial Library sheltered in the Basement 2 level, students in a storage workroom in Tyler Haynes Commons and students in lower-level hallways in academic buildings across campus. The UR Alerts and campus siren system warned students to stay in sheltered locations until after the tornado warning lifted.
UR Alerts for weather are issued when there is activity within five miles of campus, McCoy said. The university is a custom client of weather service provider AccuWeather, which provides these activity alerts, he said. McCoy said university officials had stayed in constant contact with AccuWeather and would continue to monitor it throughout the night.
An all-clear notification was issued via a UR Alert at 5:44 p.m., but was quickly rescinded at 5:57 p.m. with another alert notifying students that a tornado warning was being issued for campus until 6:00 p.m. Students were told to move indoors to the lowest level of a building and to avoid windows.
The all-clear sent at 5:44 p.m. was rescinded because of a cell that had popped up southeast of the university as notified by AccuWeather, McCoy said.
Just minutes before the 5:44 p.m. all-clear was sent, another UR Alert was sent out to inform students of the potential for flash flooding from 5:39 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.
“It’s like a swimming pool out here,” Kane said, referring to the roads near campus.
McCoy confirmed that heavy rain could cause sporadic flooding and that the police department would be monitoring for minor flooding, especially near the creek at Gateway Village.
There has been one report of minor flooding in South Court, McCoy said. Members of the housing department are responding to that report, he said.
Along with flash-flood warnings, high-wind alerts went out at 6:32 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. warning students of wind gusts up to 60 mph as storms moved over campus.
All classes and campus events scheduled for the evening were canceled, according to an email sent out to students at 6:22 p.m. by University Communications.
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