Deadly Tornado Hits Campground in Virginia Two Times

The Cherrystone Family Camping Resort in Cape Charles, Va., after a tornado swept through an area that has few structures able to withstand high winds.

Credit…L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot, via Associated Press
  • July 24th
  • According to the National Weather Service, a tornado caused massive pine trees to collapse onto tents, cabins, and vehicles at a well-liked campground in Virginia on Thursday, before seemingly changing direction and passing over the area again as it moved towards the ocean.

    The Virginia State Police reported that two individuals lost their lives and 36 additional individuals sustained injuries following the tornado that passed through the Cherrystone Family Camping Resort in Cape Charles, approximately 45 miles north of Norfolk. The campground was occupied by numerous families on vacation.

    The deceased individuals have been recognized as Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega, a married couple aged 38 from Jersey City. They were located inside a tent when a tree accidentally fell on them. Corinne Geller, the spokesperson for the Virginia State Police, mentioned that their 13-year-old son, who was in a nearby tent also affected by the falling tree, is currently in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

    According to the authorities, majority of the individuals transported to hospitals had fractures and contusions.

    Officials said, “There are few structures that can withstand high winds, and the area is heavily wooded. Staff members and campers, totaling 1,328, who were staying at the site, had only a few minutes to find shelter before a powerful storm was approaching.”

    The tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service approximately 20 minutes prior to the tornado touching down at the campground around 8:35 a.M. Subsequently, the tornado touched down at the campground around 8:35 a.M., Approximately 20 minutes after the National Weather Service’s issuance of the tornado warning.

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    As stated on its webpage, the renowned establishment occupies an extensive area of 300 acres and provides accommodations for recreational vehicles and campers, along with cottages, cabins, a shop, and four swimming pools. It is situated on the peninsula that lies between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

    As per the authorities, the campsite tends to be one of the most heavily populated establishments in the mainly rural area during the summer period.

    The campground was apparently affected by the tornado twice — initially as it came in forcefully from Chesapeake Bay, and then shortly after when it changed direction and moved towards the ocean, as reported by the National Weather Service after conducting an initial assessment.

    The Coast Guard’s spokesperson, Petty Officer Third Class David Weydert, said that the storm caused extensive damage to houses, tearing off roofs and knocking down power lines and dozens of trees in the surrounding region. In addition, a tractor-trailer overturned on a nearby highway, accompanied by the storm. At least three people had been rescued, and crews had responded to capsized boats.

    However, according to Ms. Geller, “the majority of the harm is confined to the campground.”

    Authorities stated that a grand sum of 256 individuals from the campground were boarded onto buses and transported to a school gymnasium, which is functioning as a makeshift refuge.

    “We are grateful that there was not even greater destruction,” stated Brian Moran, the public safety secretary of the state.

    One woman, Jordan Bertok, extensively posted photographs of a car on Twitter that had been damaged. People who had been staying at the campground also posted videos and photographs of the damage on social media.

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    The article appears in the print version of Page 19, Section A of today’s edition of The New York Times, which features the headline “Tornado Hits Campground in Virginia: Two Times the Reprints Order.”

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