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Tornado causes $6.8 million in damage in Deltaville

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Zoar Baptist Church in Deltaville was destroyed by the tornado. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

Call it a miracle—Saturday’s tornado that cut through the heart of Deltaville injured no one in this waterfront community.

In just a few minutes the tornado with winds up to 135 miles per hour flattened sections of the community and caused an estimated $6.8 million in losses, reported Betty Muncy, deputy coordinator of emergency services for Middlesex County.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the damage assessment team found that the twister completely destroyed 32 homes in Deltaville and five mobile homes, including two in the Warner area. Also in Deltaville, it caused major damage to 26 residences, and minor damage to 38 residences, Muncy said. Another 11 residences had very minor damage. Total residential damage is estimated at $5 million.

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In addition, the destruction of Zoar Baptist Church, and damage to Philippi Christian Church and the Deltaville Community Association (DCA) building is estimated at $1.64 million, reported Muncy.

Timber and farmland damage totals $202,500, she said.

There have been no tornado-related injuries in Deltaville reported to the mobile command center at the Deltaville Firehouse, said Jimmy Walden, chief of the Lower Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department.

An elderly woman was seriously injured when her mobile home at Warner was ripped apart and she was ejected. Another woman living nearby sustained non-life threatening injuries when her mobile home was destroyed.

The power of the tornado’s fury was evident in the central part of Deltaville where the top third of full-grown pine trees snapped off at the same height, looking as if they had been buzzed by a giant lawn mower. Houses and buildings looked like they had exploded.

The tornado came from the southwest and touched down first in Middlesex County at Porpoise Cove Lane, which is located behind the 7-Eleven on the Piankatank River, south of Deltaville.

Dean Russell, who lives on Porpoise Cove Lane, had been tracking the storm on his computer. First he saw a strong storm cell head for Saluda and Urbanna. South of that storm was another more ominous cell. He used a straight edge to chart its path. It was headed for Deltaville moving at 55 miles per hour.

Russell decided to take cover. Since his house had no rooms that didn’t have glass, he went next door to warn his neighbors, Paul and Tracy Seitz. “We heard a rumble, like far away thunder,” said Russell. “It kept getting louder and it was continuous.”

They went to the window and all they could see was debris flying sideways for about 400 feet along the road. “Let’s get,” one of them said and they ran to the utility room near the center of the house.

Russell said that when the tornado hit the Seitz house “it started shaking and vibrating for 15 or 20 seconds and it was over.”

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That was only the beginning.

The tornado moved northeast toward Route 33 and the center of Deltaville, destroying buildings and trees along the way. The storm tore off the roof of Zoar Baptist Church and knocked down the two side walls of the sanctuary. The church fellowship hall was damaged, but not as severely. A painting of Jesus above the altar in the sanctuary was unscathed even though it was surrounded by rubble.

About 200 feet east, the metal roof of the DCA building was completely peeled off. The metal was wrapped around trees in the woods.

Every tree in front of the DCA was broken off or knocked completely down. The cinderblocks of the Deltaville Swimming Pool building were scattered.

A few hundred yards behind the DCA building on Sturgeon Creek Loop, the intense storm claimed several houses, and blew a cottage off its foundation and into Sturgeon Creek.

The large house of Jessica Morris and Justin Poulos was picked up off its foundation and moved intact about 30 feet.

Nearby, Robert Matalik described he tornado. “Everything had turned black” and he could “feel” a low frequency rumble as the tornado approached. He and Wendy Price ran for an inner bathroom and huddled by the tub. Matalik shielded Price with his body as the storm ripped his house to pieces. He could feel himself being lifted up by the storm’s suction and clutched the toilet for dear life. “We didn’t have time to get scared,” said Price.

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Sitting on a point of land in Sturgeon Creek, the home of Norton and Alvine Hurd took the full force of the Deltaville tornado. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

When the noise stopped, they looked up to see the sky. The house, which was less than two years old, was gone. “You can’t believe you survived it,” she said.

On Saturday night, power was cut to most of Deltaville that is east of the Galley Restaurant to allow firefighters to search the damage for injured persons. Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) brought in extra crews from Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia, said manager Troy Mills.

Crews hustled to replace five poles on Route 33 near the DCA and Zoar Baptist Church on Sunday afternoon. Power was restored to the main line along Route 33 by 8:30 p.m. Sunday, said Mills.

Power crews worked around the clock Saturday, Sunday and Monday to get electricity restored, reported Jen Kostyniuk, the DVP manager for the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. By Tuesday morning power had been restored to customers whose homes were able to accept electrical service.

DVP is keeping extra crews in the area to help this week. “We are continuing to get residual calls from customers who are just now checking on their properties, so we expect additional service calls, said Kostyniuk. Residents are asked to contact DVP at 1-866-DOMHELP (1-866-366-4357) to report outages.

Anyone who wants to volunteer with the clean-up effort should register at the Operation Blessing tent next to Hurd’s Hardware.

Governor Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday that those affected by the severe storms that struck Virginia on April 8 and April 16 will be granted a 30-day extension for filing returns and making payments on their state taxes.

The Middlesex County website has posted photos of the tornado damage. The photos were taken by Carlton Revere, a member of the county board of supervisors and a firefighter, and the county’s damage assessment staff.

posted 04.20.2011

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