VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — An evening thunderstorm with wind gusts of more than 70 mph caused a cargo ship to run aground, coming to rest just a few hundred feet from the beach and drawing plenty of onlookers from nearby condos and apartments Wednesday morning.
The Coast Guard said the weather was to blame for the grounding of the 751-foot bulk carrier the Ornak and for a collision of two other vessels Tuesday night.
“It’s really pretty amazing,” Virginia Beach resident Dick Ullman said near the site Wednesday as people gathered to take photos. “This is a first. I’ve been coming down this way for about 50 years, and I don’t remember a ship being blown ashore like this.”
The Ornak, which typically hauls coal and gravel, was anchored east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and ran aground near First Landing State Park.
No injuries, damage or pollution were reported due to the grounding or the collision. The National Weather Service reported that waves reached 4 to 6 feet during the peak of the storm, with sustained winds from 30 mph to 45 mph.
Officials were trying to determine Wednesday when they would be able to free the ship, with high winds continuing throughout the morning. The ship is owned by a company called Polsteam and sails under a Bahamian flag, according to the Coast Guard.
As the storm swept through southeastern Virginia, it knocked out power to about 28,000 people, according to Dominion Virginia Power.
The collision occurred about an hour before the grounding in a main shipping channel, the Coast Guard said. The 79-foot rig vessel Petite and the 1,065-foot container ship MSC Charleston were later safely anchored.
Winds also caused 12 ships to drag anchor, the Coast Guard said.