NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia State Police held a press conference at Cherrystone Campground on the Eastern Shore around 4 p.m. Thursday, after a tornado tore through the area, killing two people and injuring many others.
VSP Public Relations Director Corrine Geller said the National Weather Service has confirmed a EF-1 tornado came in from the Chesapeake Bay at the southwest section of the campground. It proceeded northwest through the campground, and then headed back southeast, creating another path of destruction through the camp.
The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office received the first call about the storm from Cherrystone at 8:31 a.m. The caller reported seeing a funnel cloud.
Virginia State Police got the second call about the storm at 8:48 a.m. The driver of a tractor-trailer was heading south on Route 13, just east of Cherrystone, when he saw a funnel cloud, said it struck his vehicle, knocking it over into a median. The driver received minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital.
Emergency crews responding to the campground encountered downed trees and power lines. Geller said multiple trees had snapped and fallen across the road, as well as on tents, campers and cabins.
1,328 people were at the campground Thursday morning along with an additional 44 staff members. Northampton County deputies and VSP troopers have gone door-to-door and tent-to-ten, and Geller said everyone is accounted for.
VSP confirm two people died at the campground when a tree fell on the tent of a married couple from Jersey City, N.J. The husband, 38-year-old Lord Balabat, and wife, 38-year-old Lolabeth Ortega, were killed at Cherrystone, and their 13-year-old son was severely injured.
The son was in a neighboring tent also hit by the tree. He was transported to the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters with life-threatening injuries. Geller said he was still alive at the time of the press conference.
21 others were transported from the campground to Riverside Eastern Shore Hospital with injuries. Most of them have been treated and released. One person was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and another was flown to VCU Medical Center in Richmond. Three people, including the 13-year-old, were transported to CHKD.
The 256 remaining uninjured campers were bused to a shelter set up at Northampton County High School. Geller said they have been allowed to return throughout the day to reclaim their items.
Geller said all reports of damage from the storm were contained to the campground and the nearby stretch of Route 13. She also mentioned the incredible response of resources, afterwards.