Courtesy USA Today
CAPE CHARLES, Va. — A couple has died and their son is critically injured after a tornado touched down Thursday in an Eastern Shore campground, Virginia officials said.
Three dozen people were injured and transported to area hospitals, Corrine Gellar, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, said in a press conference outside Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort. More than 1,300 vacationers were at the campground when the storm hit; all have been accounted for. The town of Cape Charles, just south of the campground, has about the same number of year-round residents.
Lord Balatbat and his wife, Lolabeth Ortega, both 38 of Jersey City, N.J., were killed when a tree fell on their tent, Gellar said. Their 13-year-old son, in a nearby tent, has life-threatening injuries.
The area around the campground where the twister touched down was under a tornado warning at the time, according to the National Weather Service. Weather service radar had shown a waterspout over Chesapeake Bay a little before 9 a.m. ET that prompted the alert.
"It came in real quick," said Brittney Eder of the Eastville Volunteer Fire Co. here. "The sky turned jet black."
Preliminary data from the National Weather Service storm survey team in Northampton County, Va., show both tornadic and straight-line wind and hail damage from the storm, an EF1 with winds of 86 to 110 mph on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
Eder left the campground before the full force of the storm, she said. From the scene, her father told her that the storm felled trees and flipped at least two trailers.
This is the first killer tornado in Virginia since April 2011 and one of deadliest in the state since 1950, AccuWeather meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said.
Hospitals about 45 miles across the bay in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Va., are caring for three of the most seriously injured, officials said.
Twenty-six patients are being treated at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital on the Eastern Shore in Nassawadox, Va. Most of those storm victims have broken bones, lacerations and cuts, spokesman Peter Glagola said.
The tornado also caused a truck to overturn north of Cape Charles along U.S. 13 in nearby Cheriton, Va., The driver was transported to a hospital with minor injuries, Geller said.