The area known as Willoughby Spit takes its name from Thomas Willoughby, who came to Virginia in 1610 and received his first of many land grants in 1625. Willoughby's son, Thomas II, was living there in the 1660s, and legend has it that his wife awoke one morning following a terrific storm (possibly the "Harry Cane" of 1667) to see a point of land in front her home, where there had been only water the night before.
Severe storms and hurricanes would continue to transform the contour of the coast, and the Willoughby holdings, for more than a century. Although official records of Hampton Roads weather go back only to 1871 when the National Weather Service was established in downtown Norfolk, records of earlier storms have been located in ships' logs, newspaper accounts, history books and writings of early settlers.
Residents of colonial coastal Virginia were very much aware of the weather. To people who lived near the water and derived much of their livelihood from the sea, a tropical storm was a noteworthy event. During a hurricane in 1749, the Chesapeake Bay rose 15 feet (4.6 m) above normal, and a sand spit was washed up at Sewell's Point.
Over the course of the next centuries, general westward movement of sand was compounded by extensive erosion of the 7.3-mile (11.7 km) long beach of Willoughby Spit and the rest of Ocean View.