CAPE CHARLES, Va. – Flattened trees, flipped-over RVs, scattered tents, and awnings ripped from trailers — a scene of devastation awaited the visit of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe the day after a tornado ripped through a campground on the Chesapeake Bay.
Two people were killed and dozens more injured by the twister, which on Thursday morning tore into the Cherrystone Family Camping and RV Resort, a 300-acre playground of swimming pools, mini-golf, pier fishing, crabbing and other activities on the state’s Eastern Shore.
McAuliffe was scheduled to visit with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office and local politicians before touring the damage Friday. The governor cancelled a fundraiser in Aspen, Colorado, for his political action committee, and a planned visit to the Colorado Springs headquarters of the United States Olympic Committee, where he had planned to lobby in favour of Washington, D.C.’s bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics, said his spokesman Brian Coy.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area about the time it struck, but many at the park said they had only a few minutes of warning.
“All hell broke loose,” said Joe Colony, a Stephensville, Maryland, resident who has been coming to the campground for 30 years. “We got an emergency message on a cellphone and within 30 seconds, the thing hit and it blew down 40, 50 trees in the park.”
A tree fell on a tent shared by a married couple from Jersey City, New Jersey, killing them. Their 13-year-old son was in a neighbouring tent and was severely injured. State police said he was one of 36 to be harmed in the storm, with injuries ranging from cuts and broken bones to more serious ones.
The couple killed were identified as Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
Luis Balatbat Jr., 47, told The Jersey Journal that his family was shocked to learn of the death of his brother and sister-in-law.
“We are a close family, and this is very bad for us,” he said.
Lord Balatbat’s father, Luis Balatbat, 78, told the newspaper that all three of the couple’s children are hospitalized. He said his grandson is in a coma, his 12-year-old granddaughter suffered a leg and ear injury, and his 7-year-old granddaughter was struck in the stomach by a tree limb.
“I’m struggling,” the grandfather said. “I wanted to go there, but my doctor said do not go there because I am not well enough to travel. My wife is the same way.”
The couple has been married 14 years and both were born in the Philippines, the newspaper reported.
More than 1,300 people were registered at the campground when the tornado hit. The American Red Cross was assisting displaced campers and a shelter was set up at a local high school.
Peter Glagola, spokesman for Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, said the hospital treated more than two dozen people. One patient in critical condition was flown to VCU Medical Center in Richmond, he said. Three, including the 13-year-old boy, were transported to Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters in Norfolk. Most at Riverside had been released by Thursday morning, according to state police.