Gov. McAuliffe: 'Good Lord was watching out' at deadly tornado - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Gov. McAuliffe: 'Good Lord was watching out' at deadly tornado site

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Cleanup crews continue to remove debris from the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort after a deadly tornado (Source: NBC12) Cleanup crews continue to remove debris from the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort after a deadly tornado (Source: NBC12)
CHERITON, VA (WWBT) -

Recovery continued on the Eastern Shore Friday. Those at the Cherrystone campground and Governor Terry McAuliffe toured the devastation caused by an EF1 tornado that tore through the area Thursday.

Lord Balatbat and Lolabeth Ortega, both 38, were killed, state police said. Their 13-year-old son, Lee, has life-threatening injuries. Three dozen more were injured when the tornado ripped through the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort in Northampton on Thursday morning.

Friday was the first time the governor was able to get a look at the devastation at the campground. He spoke to the media just about fifty yards from the tent where the New Jersey couple lost their lives.

Despite that loss experienced during a vacation the family had taken for thirty years, Governor Terry McAuliffe says there's reason to be thankful.

"With an eight minute warning, that the lives taken and the devastation were not even greater is really a blessing," he told a gathering of reporters.

He's not the only one feeling grateful one day after the storm blew through. 

"It was chaos," Michele King recalled. "I just thank God that I'm still here."

She was at the campground to celebrate a wedding with thirty of the people closest to her. They now share memories of moments they didn't think they'd survive.

"The camper was rocking," King described. "It was a wall of water. You couldn't see out the windows."

Now, they see progress as they leave the campground with damaged vehicles in tow.

"When we left it was devastating," King explained. "When we went back a lot was already cleared from the streets. You could ride through the streets. I mean, they worked very fast."

The flow of emergency vehicles in and out of the campground is constant. There's even a command post set up for the fire department. It's too soon to tell just how long these authorities will need to be there.

The thoughts of those authorities are never far from those who weathered the storm. Governor McAuliffe says the 13-year-old son of the couple killed needs prayers. He is still in critical condition after surgery.

"My heart sinks for that family," King added. "It's horrible. It's horrible."

In just one day a lot of progress was made. Still, it's too early to tell just how long the cleanup will take. In the meantime, Governor McAuliffe has asked for a report in the next few days of what went right during this storm and what state and local authorities can improve.

Police said 1,328 campers and 40 staff members were at the campground when the tornado hit. State Police say trees crashed onto several campers, causing some to overturn. Troopers also found numerous downed trees and power lines across roads.

Around 150 to 175 people lost their shelter and are being bussed to a nearby school for shelter, while authorities search the site for any additional injured persons. 

Northampton officials declared a local emergency saying the county is "facing a condition of extreme peril." A National Weather Service storm team is headed to the area to survey the damage.
The National Weather Service believes the tornado was an EF1 based on the preliminary investigation, which means winds were between 86 and 110 miles per hour.
 
The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area that expired at 9 a.m. Residents in Cheriton began calling State Police with reports of severe damage. One teen posted a video to YouTube, showing hail falling in the area during the storm.

The campsite on the Delmarva Peninsula sits on 300 acres and has been open for 50 years. It includes 725 sites including cabins, cottages, and deluxe campers. 

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