CAPE CHARLES, Va. (WJLA) - As John Lockhart sat huddled with terrified family members inside their shaking camper listening to the sound of heavy rain and wind, he feared the end could be near. Within minutes, a fierce F-1 tornado tore through their campground Thursday, snapping dozens of trees and flipping over RVs.
A couple from New Jersey was killed when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, in a tent next to them, had life-threatening injuries. Three-dozen others were also injured.
For Lockhart, whose family joined another family for what was to be a four-day camping trip at the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort along the Chesapeake Bay, he was counting his blessings on Friday to have survived.
"All you could do was say your prayers and just hold on," he said as he recounted living through the prior day's severe storm. "I could feel the whole camper, It felt like it was getting ready to lift off. I was really scared. I was fearing, that this was gonna be it."
Other family members agreed, saying the memory of the twister will haunt them for a long time to come.
"It was a wall of rain that hit and debris was flying everywhere. All I could hear was things hitting the camper," recalled DJ Rose.
Rose was among more than 1,300 people who were checked into the campground when the tornado - packing wind speeds of up to 100 miles per hour - struck around 8:30 a.m. Thursday
He said once the tornado finally passed, the families went outside and saw the campground had been ravaged, with debris strewn all around.
"It was overwhelming," he explained. "You walked outside and were literally ankle deep in water."
The popular, 300-acre campground hosts small cabins, campers and tents that are surrounded by massive pine trees, many of which were knocked down by the tornado.
The twister traveled about eight miles, a portion of that over water, according to the National Weather Service. While some crops in neighboring farm fields in rural Northampton County were damaged, state officials said most of the destruction occurred at the 50-year-old campground.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)