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Ashburn Assaulted by Tornadoes

Funnel clouds tore through two sections of Ashburn, tearing up trees and breaking limbs.

Tornadoes, the spinoff of Hurricane Ivan, walloped two regions of Ashburn that were geographically miles apart.

The storm downed trees and utility lines Friday evening at the entrance to America Online beside Waxpool Road, and at nearby Smiths Switch Road behind the Ashburn Ice House. It also clobbered trees and the roof and windows of at least one house at Potomac Farms off Route 7, behind the Blue Mount Nursery, between Leesburg and Broad Run Farms.

Homeowners, neighbors, road and utility crews worked Saturday to clear the wreckage. John and Shauna Dickson, who live on Smith Circle behind the nursery, had just heard news that a tornado had touched down off Route 28, near AOL.

"The wind started to kick up," John Dickson said

"So much stuff was hitting the window, I thought it would burst," Shauna Dickson said. "We thought it was hail, but it was debris."

"At that point, we headed for the basement," John Dickson said.

"He came back upstairs, because he thought the door had blown out," she said.

"We couldn't see very far," he said.

A friend called to ask if they were OK, because he saw a funnel going toward their house.

The couple had just hired someone to cut off several limbs from the 250-year-old Swamp White Oak tree in the back of the house. The wind tore more of its branches off, and a tree crashed down on their trampoline.

Shauna Dickson said her first concern was that she had not put together a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit. She said her church has recommended assembling items in case of disaster.

"Now we're motivated to get our kits," he said.

John Dickson said he normally downplays the news reports when something like this happens. "I was excited and concerned," he said. "When it starts damaging your own property, it takes on a new perspective all its own."

His wife said she was scared. "I thought the roof would come off and all this rain would come in."

THE WINDS ripped off a 5" by 5' section of the roof on the house next door. Carla and Cisco Altamirano and their boys Ryan, 13, and Brandon, 11, left the house before the tornado struck. Ryan Altamirano had a basketball tryout at Farmwell Station Middle School. Carla Altamirano said parents huddled together during the tryouts, worried a tornado would strike the school.

"It was scary," she said. "The kids didn't know what was going on, but we had cell phones."

They heard reports of the tornadoes touching down on the WO&D Trail. "We saw it pass the school through the parking lot," she said.

When the family members returned home, they discovered the winds had blown a shed apart on the side of the house. "It just exploded," she said. "We had three broken windows, siding coming off the house and a hole in the roof."

Inside the house, a bedroom ceiling cracked and caved in slightly.

ACROSS THE STREET, Fred Stein said he watched a funnel cloud touch down in his front yard. "I saw a swirl about 50 feet from the house. It was a wide and clear swirl."

He grabbed his four dogs and rushed to the basement. He said he felt "a little freaked out, a little bit in shock."

"It's one of those things you see in movies," he said. "It sounded like a train coming through. Then it was over in five minutes."

The winds knocked over his trash can and tore branches from the trees.

Felled trees and limbs littered the landscape up and down Smith Circle. Wayne Getz and Joe Jenkins of the Virginia Department of Transportation used a chain saw on a tree blocking a driveway.

After the storm passed, utility crews worked at Smiths Switch Road, where the thoroughfare changed from pavement to dirt, and inspected the toppled trees and electric lines at the AOL entrance.

In Sterling, Laura Nord showed her friends the photo she took of the tornado near AOL. She saw firsthand "the quiet before the storm."

"I'm looking outside and thinking there's nothing going on here," she recalled. "It was quiet. All of a sudden, I see a row of clouds, like a rain band. Then I see this huge funnel cloud coming down. It was just amazing.

"It was an absolute phenomena."