Storms plunge thousands back into darkness, damage reported

Residents in Fredericksburg and Stafford and Warrenton counties were among the hardest-hit. (Photo: Brianne Carter)

Thousands in the D.C. region were plunged back into darkness after another bout with Mother Nature over the weekend.

Work crews had just fully restored power residents in the greater D.C. area, more than a week after the deadly derecho that struck the region, but severe storms that hit on Sunday has left thousands without electricity.

Among the hardest-hit was Fredericksburg, where frightened residents were forced to take cover as the severe storms ripped a roof off a dance studio.

More than a dozen cheerleaders and their parents inside the building feared for their lives.

The National Weather Service says a microburst caused the extensive damage. With 80 mph westerly winds, the microburst hit an area three miles south of Fredericksburg. A microburst is a very powerful, downward wind gust that can push wind speeds to nearly 100 mph.

"We were scared and praying to God we weren't going to die," said Kylie Johnson, cheerleader.

As the windows blew out, the teacher ordered the cheerleaders practicing inside to the front end of the building.

"Mrs. Connie tried to tape the windows,” said Meghan Thatcher, cheerleader. “Then she saw the funnel and told everybody to go to the dance room."

In total, 17 cheerleaders were inside the studio at the time and seven were injured. Four of them were taken to area hospitals for treatment and two remain hospitalized Monday morning.

"It wasn't that far from hitting us...we saw the walls collapse,” said Cierra Davis.

Two of the parents were injured as they pulled the kids to safety.

The top of the building flew a few hundred feet and landed on a house. Luckily, no one was home.

The damage and disbelief stretches down the street to a strip mall, where the tops of stores are now sitting on the ground.

84-year-old John Bettis and his 83-year-old wife were in their four bedroom house when the cheer gym's roof flew onto his. He says the ceiling began cracking and falling and piled high so he couldn’t get to his door.

Bettis has lived here for 50 years, now his home is condemned. Still, he is grateful.

“I think the Lord looked out for me,” Bettis says. “I really do. We were lucky.”

Nick Steffey bought a house one month ago. Now he's totaling up the damage.

“About 10 grand for the roof, six grand for the trees and that's not considering anything else so it's probably going to be $30-40,000 damage,” he says. “Welcome to being a homeowner!”