The quiet tranquility of a coastal Sunday afternoon in Virginia Beach, Virgina, was shattered on April 30, 2023. An EF3 tornado swept through the region, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The tornado, which had not been anticipated in a region more accustomed to tropical storms and hurricanes, became a stark reminder of nature’s unpredictability.
For one local company, the disaster hit especially close to home. Xylem Tree Experts, a dual-accredited, 14-year TCIA member company, headquartered in nearby Norfolk, Va., immediately jumped into action to assist affected residents in their time of need.
The storm’s fury was evident in the Chelsea neighborhood and on Haversham Close, where more than 100 structures bore its brunt. Astonishingly, while properties were severely damaged, no life was lost or harmed.
A first-hand encounter
Mark Griffith, an ISA Certified Arborist and Hampton Roads’ commercial & residential division manager at Xylem, experienced the tornado’s proximity first-hand. “The tornado crossed the street in front of me and my wife,” he recounts, emphasizing how it touched down less than a quarter-mile from his residence.
By the next morning, while awaiting police clearances and the verification of utility safety, Griffith and his team were strategizing their approach. The challenge was formidable. Roads were nearly impassable, homes were inaccessible and the amount of debris was staggering. Yet, amid the chaos, the community spirit shone brightly. Homeowners and volunteers were offering meals and drinks to the busy crews, showcasing the resilience and unity of Virginia Beach’s residents.
Griffith pointed out the unique position the team from Xylem held as local service providers. Being part of the community, they weren’t just contractors, they were neighbors helping neighbors, he says. “This gave homeowners a sense of reassurance and trust.”
The aftermath of the tornado saw Xylem’s crews working tirelessly for two weeks, using advanced machinery, including cranes, to clear debris and bring back a semblance of normality. It was, as Griffith puts it, “rewarding to help my neighbors through this tragic event.”
The efforts of companies like Xylem Tree Experts underscore the importance of local businesses in disaster management and recovery. Their swift response and unwavering dedication to the Virginia Beach community exemplify how in times of crisis, neighbors come together to rebuild and support one another.
Fred Rose is director of communications with Xylem Tree Experts. This article is based on first-hand accounts from Xylem Tree Experts’ team members who were on scene during the storm recovery effort.