Virginia Tornado Victims Cope with Injuries, Demolished Homes

By Sonja Barisic | April 30, 2008

Weary residents of the southern Virginia city of Suffolk, some awakening in emergency shelters, braced themselves to see what was left of their homes and livelihoods Tuesday after three tornadoes smashed houses, piled cars on each other and injured more than 200 people.

One twister cut a zigzagging path 25 miles (40 kilometers) long through residential areas, obliterating some homes while leaving others just a few feet away untouched.

Several roads were closed Tuesday morning, and traffic was backed up leading into downtown Suffolk, a city of approximately 80,000 outside Norfolk.

City officials said rescue crews had gone through damaged areas and homes during the night and planned to keep searching for victims.

“We have had no reports of anybody missing,” said Bob Spieldenner of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. “Looking at some of that damage, if we get out of this without any fatalities we’ll be very lucky.”

Of the 200 injured, only six were listed in critical condition and six were listed as serious.

Officials listed 125 Suffolk homes and 15 buildings as uninhabitable.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared a state of emergency, which frees up resources for those areas hit hardest. Kaine planned to visit some of the most damaged areas on Tuesday.

The National Weather Service confirmed that tornadoes struck Suffolk, Brunswick County, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west, and Colonial Heights, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northwest. Meteorologist Bryan Jackson described Suffolk’s as a “major tornado.”

At least 200 were injured in Suffolk and 18 others were injured in Colonial Heights, south of Richmond, said Bob Spieldenner of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

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

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