Naylor’s Beach residents reflect on 2016 tornado disaster

WARSAW, Va. (WRIC) – February 24 marks one year since a violent tornado outbreak killed four people in Virginia.

Larry Turner, 50, along with Devine Stringfield, 26, and Ian Lewis, 2, were together inside a mobile home in Waverly when shortly after 2:30 p.m. when a tornado lifted the home and slammed it across Highway 460.

Approximately an hour later and roughly 110 miles to the west in Evergreen, as the second line of storms raced to the northeast, Edward K. Harris, 78, was alone watching television when a tornado jumped the elevated railroad tracks and engulfed his mobile home.

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In Richmond County, while no one was killed or injured, there was widespread destruction of riverfront homes along Naylor’s Beach.

Penn Burke is nearly finished rebuilding his riverfront cottage. An 8News crew first met Burke in the wake of the devastation one year ago.

“Our houses are destroyed,” he told reporter Matthew McClellan in late February 2016.

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An EF-3 tornado raced across the river from Tappahannock, reaching speeds of 140 miles per hour and leveling several houses. Burke’s home had two stories torn off, leaving only a few walls standing. Thirteen homes were damaged, with nine of them reduced to rubble.

“There were a couple of people trapped inside their houses,” Burke told 8News. “They were scared but no one was injured.”

The video shows devastation that words fail to describe. In the days that followed, neighbors and even complete strangers reached out to help one another.

“They were resilient,” recalled Greg Baker, chief of emergency services for Richmond County. “They came together. I saw neighbors putting people up in their houses at the end of the street for the night.”

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Volunteers spent days sifting through the debris to find what valuables they could save and return them to their owners.

One year later, there signs of restoration at Naylor’s Beach, a community neighbors say has grown stronger from the disaster.

“Since the tornado, everybody seems to be reaching out and helping each other,” Burke said of his already tightly knit community, adding that he hopes to be moved into his new house in March.

Tonight on 8News at 11, we’re taking you back to Tappahannock, where twisters tore people from their homes. Tune in to hear why some say their community is still scarred by the disaster.

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