Virginia governor: People at campground had almost no warning of tornado

The Jersey City woman killed in a tornado at a Virginia campground had celebrated her 38th birthday the night before.
By Frances Burns   |   July 25, 2014 at 4:52 PM

CHERITON, Va., July 25 (UPI) -- The tornado that killed a New Jersey couple at a campground on Virginia's Eastern Shore touched down with almost no warning, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.

Thursday's storm struck the Cherrystone Family Camping and RV Resort, injuring at least 36 people. Lord N. Balatbat and Lolibeth E. Ortega, both 38, were killed when a tree fell on their tent.

McAuliffe, who visited the campground Friday, said the tornado developed suddenly, giving people no more than 5 to 8 minutes to take shelter or get away. Some people at the campground were able to drive off before the storm hit.

Lheandrew Balatbat, the son of the dead couple, spent Thursday night in intensive care. Authorities said his injuries were life-threatening.

His two sisters suffered less serious injuries.

Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said Ortega, who, like her husband, was born in the Philippines, celebrated her birthday Wednesday night at the campground.

About 1,300 people were at the campground Thursday morning. The tornado overturned campers and recreational vehicles, reducing some of them to splinters. Shannon and Michael Welborn were taking their tent down when the storm hit. Shannon Welborn told the Virginian-Pilot they had heard the weather forecast and were hoping to get on the road for their home in Mount AIry, N.C., with their two young children before the worst hit.

Instead, they just had time to drive out of the way of the twister.

"The destruction was terrifying," she said. "Almost like scenes from a movie."

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