EASTERN SHORE, Va. (WAVY) – Governor Terry McAuliffe visited the Eastern Shore Friday morning to tour Cherrystone Campground, where an EF-1 tornado touched down Thursday.
Gov. McAuliffe said he wanted to see the damage, and meet with those who were impacted by the storm. He also met with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office to thank first responders for their hard work.
“I think we did as much as we could with the warning we had,” McAuliffe said during an 11 a.m. media briefing. “Yesterday was not a drill, it was a real life incident, and we were prepared.”
The governor said the time of day and speed of Thursday’s storm was surprising: “this was a freak type incident, with 100-mile winds, no notice.” He applauded the efforts of both first responders and the community several times.
On Friday, McAuliffe said people were picking through the wreckage at the campgrounds, trying to see what they could find of their belongings. He said said Cherrystone Campground has been there for years, he called it “magnificent” and said families will continue to go there.
The governor made special mention of a 13-year-old boy named Lee, whose parents were killed at the campground. He said the son’s condition is very critical and asked the public to pray for the young boy still int he ICU.
“Two individuals lost their lives, in addition to three members of the family who are still in the hospital. Young Lee is 13-years-old and he’s in very critical condition,” McAuliffe said.
“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers on behalf of the Commonwealth,” he said, to the family of the New Jersey couple who was killed.
Lee was trapped in his tent when a huge tree fell onto it. His two sisters were also hurt, but are expected to be okay. 10 On Your Side talked with others who tried to help the family, like Rudy Draper, whose camper was directly beside them.
“We tried to get them to come in the camper, but they had no idea what was going on. A little while later, as the storm go worse, we heard somebody screaming,” Draper said. “When we heard the family screaming, we went outside, they needed serious help.”
Draper has had quite a week. He proposed to his fiance at the campground, and two days later was giving CPR to the critically injured 13-year-old. He’s an off-duty law enforcement officer from North Carolina and knew the boy needed much more help.
“We actually got him on a kayak as a stretcher and got him to the ambulance,” Draper said.
McAuliffe said it was a miracle more people weren’t killed. 10 On Your Side asked him about putting an emergency management command center on the Eastern Shore, given its unique geography and limited land access.
“We saw this command truck come up from Chesapeake,” the governor said. “Should we be looking at things like this? Should we have a command center here? All very good questions that need to be asked and answered, and I think we’re going to look at that.”
McAuliffe said he will huddle with state emergency management as to what lessons can be learned from the fatal storm.
The governor also mentioned the devastation the storm caused to the agriculture industry. He said 500 to 900 acres of corn, more than a thousand acres of soy beans and 400 acres of cotton were destroyed. His office is working to get those farmers federal aid quickly.