OCHS Activities Director Mike Neeley

OCHS Activities Director Mike Neeley checks out the downed trees near the new track at the high school. Neeley said the football scrimmage between OCHS and Madison will take place as scheduled at 6 p.m. today at Porterfield Park. 

Another wild storm blew through Orange County last night. Power outages forced today's closure of both Orange County High School (OCHS) and Unionville Elementary School (UES).

Powerful winds knocked down trees and broke off large limbs in the Town of Orange and along Rapidan Road between Orange and Rapidan. Residents of Lahore Road also reported major damage.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Cecil Snead said he learned of possible power outages at the two schools at 5 a.m. Thursday. Based on the information he had at the time, he expected power to be restored by 6 a.m., in plenty of time for the school day—the first Friday of the new school year.

But things didn’t work out like that.

“Power wasn't restored at OCHS until 10:23 a.m. and at UES until 10:43 a.m. In the meantime, we made the decision to close the affected schools,” Snead said.

Parents and guardians were alerted via School Messenger, the division’s automated messaging system. Students who had already arrived at Unionville were transported to nearby Lightfoot Elementary School, where they were then sent home by bus or picked up at 9 a.m.

Although the new track at Orange County High School wasn’t damaged, some large limbs fell down near it, and there was lots of storm debris on the track. OCHS activities director Mike Neeley was on site checking out the damage in the midst of another task: repainting the lines on the practice football field at the center of the track.

Neeley expressed relief there was no damage to the track, which has been under construction for months and will soon open for use. The completion of the project was slowed due to repeated bouts of rain and chilly weather earlier in the year.

As for the practice football field at the center of the oval, its new sod happily soaked up the rain.

His face wet with perspiration on a humid morning, Neeley said, “The field’s in great shape.”

Not far away, Stonewall Harley-Davidson employee Cleveland Saunders was clearing debris in a lot behind the landmark store on Waugh Boulevard. He could handle the small limbs and general clutter, but he said a tree company would be needed to remove the massive pine tree felled by the ferocious storm. As further proof of the storm's strong winds, a portion of fence separating the Stonewall property from OCHS lay on the ground.

Saunders said that at his home a mile past Lake of the Woods, Thursday night’s storm was nothing to get excited about—“just a little thunder and lightning.”

He had expected to work at Stonewall’s business in Fredericksburg and was surprised to get called in to Orange. Once he drove past the Orange County Airport, however, he began to see the damage. By the time he saw how many trees were down in Orange, he began to wonder whether “a small hurricane” had hit the area.

“It was a bad storm, that’s for sure,” Saunders said.

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Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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