- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Three tornadoes swept through central and southeastern Virginia on Monday afternoon, damaging multiple homes and buildings and injuring more than 200 people, authorities said.

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

The National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes struck Suffolk, Colonial Heights and Brunswick County. Meteorologist Bryan Jackson said the Brunswick County tornado was estimated at 86 mph to 110 mph, and cut a 300-yard path of destruction. Assessments of the other twisters were planned for Tuesday, but Mr. 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. At least 18 others were injured when the storm hit Colonial Heights, Mr. 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,” Suffolk city spokeswoman Dana Woodson said. She said the area around the hospital and in the community of Driver were hardest hit.

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.

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 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.

Associated Press writers Dena Potter and Larry O’Dell contributed to this report from Richmond.


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