CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – What was supposed to be a typical shift on Wednesday night for some IHOP employees – turned into a nightmare as storms raged across the commonwealth.
“I was in the kitchen about six o’clock and felt the air pressure change dramatically. Then, the ground started trembling a little bit,” said one IHOP cook, Robert Hermsen.
Hermsen thought it was a tornado at the time of destruction since a deadly tornado occurred near Hull Street in 2018. However, Wednesday’s incident turned out to be a rare event called a “gustnado” or a “gust front tornado.”
A gustnado is an intense, short-lived, vertical whirlwind that can cause damage to people or properties in its path. The IHOP is located right off Memphis Boulevard in Chesterfield and is surrounded by other buildings. However, IHOP was the only establishment affected by the Gustnado.
Employees watched the windows rattle and then break into glass shards. The side door also shattered but remained in place. Hermsen said there were five tables with customers in the restaurant at the time of the Virginia weather anomaly, and then the power went out.
“When the power went out, I was trying to cook the meals quickly while the stove was still hot,” Hermsen said.
When the employees walked outside, they were shocked to see the damage done by the powerful winds. The roof of the building had ten-foot-tall shingles ripped off, signs were bent and glass was shattered along the sidewalk. They also saw a tree uprooted from the ground next to their parking lot and found pieces of property scattered in the grass.
“Across the street is a Five Guys sign on the median. Also, a tree fell over, and a part of our roof is across the street at the gas station,” Hermsen said.
The broken glass will be replaced at the IHOP on Thursday morning. A store manager told 8News that all of the damage done to the building was external, and the restaurant plans to be open by 8 a.m. Thursday.