Tornadoes Batter Southeast Virginia
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Three tornadoes ripped across southeastern Virginia yesterday afternoon, overturning autos, demolishing houses and injuring as many as 200 people.
The National Weather Service said the most powerful of the storms touched down in Suffolk, where the emergency room at one hospital tended to about 60 people with fractures, cuts and bruises.
"It was like a war zone," said Jennifer Haines, a resident of one of the hardest hit parts of Suffolk, where tornado winds were believed to more than 100 mph.
"There was a weird sound that I never heard before," said Diane MacKenzie, who also lives in one of the areas where damage appeared most severe. "That scared me."
The storm began with hail, followed by rain "so heavy you couldn't see through it," she said. Then, in an instant, she saw "debris everywhere."
Dozens of homes in the neighborhood, near the Nansemond River, had been reduced to "just sticks," MacKenzie said.
Beams and boards littered neighborhoods, lying in vast clumps of pink insulation. Walls and roofs were peeled from many houses. Witnesses saw cars on their roofs and tree trunks that had been bent.
The storm swept in with astonishing speed, said John Rose of the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department. Damage was extensive, he said.
The foundation of a house, for example, remained where it had been dug, he said, but the house itself was "sort of down the way" in "a pile of rubble." In the living room of another house, a lawn mower had been blown in through a porch window, he said.
In one place, a sofa came to rest in the middle of a street. A woman was sitting on it, holding an umbrella, said a man who lived near the damage zone.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) declared a state of emergency last night, freeing up state resources to assist the areas hit hardest.
As of late yesterday, no storm-related fatalities had been reported.