Hundreds Injured in Va. Storms

By Dena Potter
Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 28, 2008; 8:02 PM

RICHMOND -- At least 200 people were injured Monday as severe storms swept through central and southeastern Virginia.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared a state of emergency for areas of southeastern Virginia damaged by apparent tornadoes.

Suffolk city spokeswoman Dana Woodson said two apparent tornadoes passed through the city Monday afternoon. She initially said one person died in the storm, but she and city police spokeswoman Lt. Debbie George later said that death was not connected to the storm.

Bob Spieldenner from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said at least 200 were injured in Suffolk. At least 18 others were injured when the storm hit Colonial Heights, Spieldenner said.

Sentara Obici Hospital in Suffolk was damaged, but remained operational and was accepting patients, Spieldenner said. The injured also were being taken to another hospital in the city, Woodson said.

"Multiple buildings have been destroyed, homes have been destroyed," Woodson said. She said the area around the hospital and in the community of Driver were hardest hit.

Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding said about 60 people were being treated at Obici, and he expected most to be released.

"We have lots of cuts and bruises, contusions, some extremity injuries," he said.

He said the hospital opened an incident command center and set up triage stations to deal with the injured. He said emergency department windows were cracked, apparently by flying debris from a damaged shopping center across the street, but did not break.

In Colonial Heights south of Richmond, the storm overturned cars and blew out vehicle windows in the Southpark Mall area. Some buildings also were damaged.

Southside Regional Medical Center treated one storm victim with minor injuries and was poised to receive more, hospital spokeswoman Terry Tysinger said. John Randolph Hospital in Hopewell was put on "high alert."

Property damage also was reported in Brunswick County, one of several localities where the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning. Sgt. Michelle Cotten of the Virginia State Police said a twister destroyed two homes. Trees and power lines were down, and some flooding was reported.

The National Weather Service had not confirmed any of the tornado reports, system forecaster Rick Curry of the Wakefield office said. However, he said the service was reasonably certain that a tornado hit Colonial Heights based on televised photos from the scene and an eyewitness account from a weather service employee who was shopping in the area at the time.

About 18,000 Virginia Dominion Power customers were without service, mostly in the Northern Neck.

Authorities said callers later reported seeing a funnel cloud near Portsmouth.

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Associated Press writer Larry O'Dell contributed to this report.

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