Oakton High School's athletic fields and facilities sustained approximately $77,000 worth of damage Monday night when a severe thunderstorm passed through the area. The storm's damage included the football press box, two light posts and a shed housing scoreboard and sprinkler controls.
Oakton Athletic Director Sandy Reynolds was in her office at the school when the storm -- classified as an F-1 microburst -- hit. She estimated the wind speed approached 100 mph.
"It was amazing," Reynolds said. "We looked out the window and couldn't see anything. Everything outside was white."
The microburst hit at approximately 5 p.m. A microburst is a pattern of intense winds that drops from rain clouds and spreads horizontally when it hits the ground, creating wind shear. It usually lasts from five to 15 minutes and affects a relatively small area, between 0.6 and 1.9 miles in diameter.
The storm ripped the roof off the football press box. The roof was blown into a light post directly above the press box and split the pole from top to bottom. A band storage shed weighing several hundred pounds was picked up and blown through a fence, landing across the street.
Another storage shed was destroyed, and its roof landed on a new BMW parked across the street. The softball concession stand, which contains the controls of the sprinkler system and a new scoreboard, was flipped over. Some lights on the baseball field now point downward.
The Fairfax County school system already has replaced the press box roof, fixed the football field's fence and cleared debris so that the school's upper field could be reopened Wednesday. The baseball field should be reopened next week.
The damage to the sprinkler system and scoreboard on the lower fields has not yet been assessed, so Oakton building engineer Brian McDonough said he was not sure when the field hockey, softball and practice soccer fields could reopen.