Virginia Sizes Up Devastation of Tornadoes

Four people killed; dozens of buildings damaged

From Southside Virginia to the coastal plain of the Chesapeake Bay, a series of twisters lashed the state Wednesday, killing four, destroying or damaging dozens of buildings and injuring an equal number of people. The hardest hit areas were Appomattox County, the town of Waverly and Essex County. Here's a look at how those places and their residents were coping Thursday:

Waverly Victim Remembered as 'A Good Dude'

A Waverly man who was killed along with two others when a tornado demolished his mobile home was being remembered as a fun-loving person who went out of his way to help his neighbors.

Virginia State Police said Larry D. Turner, 50, died Wednesday afternoon when a twister ripped through his neighborhood sandwiched between railroad tracks and U.S. 460. Also killed were Devine J. Springfield, 26, and 2-year-old Ivan T. Lewis.

According to police, their bodies were hurled 300 yards across the highway and into a field adjacent to a cemetery.

The toddler's 30-year-old mother, whose name was not released, was also in the trailer but survived. Police said in a news release that she remained hospitalized Thursday.

Timothy Williams, whose trailer two doors down from Turner's was destroyed, said the woman was Turner's girlfriend and Springfield's sister.

Turner "was a good dude" who sometimes came to Williams' house to hang out and watch TV, Williams said. Williams also was a frequent guest of Turner's.

"He loved to cook," Williams said. "Every time I was over there, he was cooking."

State Del. Roslyn Tyler, who represents part of Sussex County, said Turner was a strong advocate for his community. Whenever someone in Waverly needed help in an emergency, she could always count on a call from Turner, Tyler said.

"He came from a big family in that particular area and knew everybody," said Tyler said, who said she knew Turner for about 30 years.

After 140 mph Winds, Essex County Stands Strong

The National Weather Service confirmed three tornadoes and was investigating at least several more. One of the three confirmed twisters hit Essex County with top winds of 140 mph.

The chairman of the Board of Supervisors said the storm injured 20 to 25 people, some of whom were trapped in the wreckage of their homes, and destroyed 10 to 15 homes and left an equal number heavily damaged. Some of the victims had critical injuries.

"I've lived here all of my 51 years, and I've never seen this much devastation," Stanley Langford said. "But we will survive."

Langford said he had nothing but praise for the state's response to the storm, which has included National Guard troops, state emergency response officials and others.

"We're a small, rural community and they have taken care of us," Langford said. "When people say that government doesn't help, this proves them wrong."

Amid the Mayhem, Stories of Survival

More than a few people dodged a bullet when a tornado with winds of up to 100 mph blew into Sussex County.

Skip Lucas said he was driving his roommate's car when the wind picked up and debris and sparks from downed power lines started flying.

"Poles and trees were snapping like toothpicks," he said.

He pulled over and ducked just as the windows shattered in the 1994 Oldsmobile.

"I thought I was going to die," Lucas said.

Bessie Givens, owner of the tornado-battered Oldsmobile, said she was outside when the sky blackened and the wind began to howl through the trees around her mobile home. She ran inside and jumped into the bathtub with her teenage granddaughter, and they could feel the wind pressing under the trailer.

"I thought that thing was going to fly," he said. "You talk about scared."

In Appomattox, Governor Gets a Glimpse at the Destruction

Another confirmed tornado ripped through Appomattox County with winds estimated to be 135 to 165 mph. The state's other fatality occurred here: a 78-year-old man in Evergreen.

The path of the storm was 13 miles long and 400 yards wide. In its wake, more than 100 structures were damaged.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe made Appomattox his first of three stops to assess the damage. He saw "a tremendous amount of devastation," including trees were snapped like matchsticks, he said.

"It's so sad to see these families and friends walking through the debris just trying to find some memento," McAuliffe said.

In Waverly, he met with several relatives of the three people killed in that southeastern Virginia farming community.

School books, every bit of clothing and even what little cash the family had were blown away, he said.

"The family doesn't have the money to bury their child," McAuliffe said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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