WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A likely tornado tore through an eastern Virginia campground on Thursday, killing up to three people and injuring as many as 20 as it overturned vehicles and downed trees, officials said.
The storm swept across the Chesapeake Bay and slammed into the seaside Cherrystone Campground at Cape Charles, Virginia, in the midst of the busy summer season, bringing hail, high winds and heavy rain.
“So far the count is three,” Brittney Eder, a spokeswoman for the Eastville Volunteer Fire Co, said of the death toll.
She put the number injured at five and said three cars and a tractor-trailer had been overturned.
However, Virginia State Police said in a statement that two people died and another roughly 20 were injured. Campers are being bused to a shelter, and police are searching for more injured people, police said.
State emergency officials said about 1,300 people were staying at the campground, which is about 100 miles south of Washington at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Photos on WVEC-TV, an ABC News affiliate in Hampton Roads, Virginia, showed a camper or recreational vehicle overturned at the site.
Amanda Blankenship, whose husband is an Eastville firefighter, told WVEC some of the injured were children.
“It was very scary, a lot of people were still in their beds” when the tornado struck, she said.
James Foster, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia, said the storm likely was a tornado that had originated in mainland Virginia.
It gained strength as it moved east across the Chesapeake Bay and then struck the campground, he said. The weather service had put out a tornado warning at 8:20 a.m., and the twister hit a few minutes later, he said.
The Cherrystone website said it covered about 300 acres and included cottages, RV sites and boat rentals. No one answered a phone call to the campground.
Additional reporting by Gary Robertson in Richmond, Virginina; Editing by Bill Trott and Susan Heavey