3 tornadoes rip through Virginia, hundreds of people hurt
SUFFOLK, Va. — Three tornadoes destroyed homes, tossed cars and injured more than 200 people as they carved Monday through central and southeastern Virginia.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared a state of emergency for the areas of southeastern Virginia struck by the twisters.
The National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes struck Suffolk, Colonial Heights and Brunswick County. Meteorologist Bryan Jackson described Suffolk’s as a "major tornado."
Bob Spieldenner from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said at least 200 were injured in Suffolk and 18 others were injured in Colonial Heights.
"Multiple buildings have been destroyed, homes have been destroyed," Suffolk city spokeswoman Dana Woodson said.
Woodson said the area around Sentara Obici Hospital and in the community of Driver were hardest hit. The hospital was damaged but still able to treat patients.
In Driver, downed trees and power lines covered the streets. A vending machine was tilted on its side, leaning up against a pile of rubble that had been the general store in a small shopping district.
"It’s just a bunch of broken power poles, telephone lines and sad faces," said Richard Allbright, who works for a tree removal service in Driver and had been out for hours trying to clear the roads.
Insulation, wiring and twisted metal hung from the front of a strip mall in Suffolk that was stripped bare of its facing. Cars and SUVs in the parking lot outside lay strewn about, some lying on top of others.
Sentara hospital spokesman Dale Gauding said about 60 injured people were being treated there, and he expected most to be released.
"We have lots of cuts and bruises" and arm and leg injuries, he said. The hospital’s windows were cracked, apparently by debris from a damaged shopping center across the street.
In Colonial Heights south of Richmond, the storm overturned cars and damaged buildings in the Southpark Mall area.
Southside Regional Medical Center treated one storm victim with minor injuries and was poised to receive more, hospital spokeswoman Terry Tysinger said.
Property damage also was reported in Brunswick County, one of several localities where the 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.
About 9,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers remained without service Monday night, mostly in the Northern Neck.