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'Just time to save yourself' page 2
Storms damaged homes and businesses throughout the region overnight.

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado is responsible for the damage in Stafford last night. The impact area was said to be from roughly the Cornerstone Baptist Church to just south of the airport.

The county is opening a Customer Service Center tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Berea Fire Station at 20 Sebring Way off Litchfield Boulevard. There will be information on repairs, permits and utilities available for affected residents.

County officials promise to speed up the permits process for residents of England Run North subdivision. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army are assisting those whose homes sustained damage.

The mood at the shelter is one of relief - that no one was seriously hurt.

One resident of Foggy Field Road, Peter Ortell, said his family is moving out of the neighborhood at the end of the month: To Kansas.

- Keith Epps

See related multimedia
SLIDE SHOW: Click here to view images of the storm damage.
Date published: 5/9/2008


Stone said officials were hoping to get more accurate information after surveying the area today.

National Weather Service officials were in Stafford this afternoon to try to determine if the damage was caused by a tornado. Stone said he didn’t know if a twister had touched down, “but clearly it was more than a thunderstorm.”

“I’ve been to Katrina and this doesn’t compare. But it is a significant incident for Stafford County,” he said.

Uprooted lives

Like the Leonards, other area victims told stories of having their lives turned upside down in a flash as the storm system swept through the area.

About 30 minutes before the storms hit the Puentes’ home on Brushy Creek Drive in the England Run North neighborhood, 2-year-old Alina awoke from a bad dream. Her mother, Kitty, took her out of her room to comfort her.

Then a piece of a neighbor’s roof crashed through the ceiling of the child’s room and landed on her bed.

“It landed where her head would have been if she was sleeping,” Kitty Puentes said.

The child’s room and the family’s garage were destroyed, Puentes said. Their 2008 Toyota Scion was picked up and slammed into a wall of the garage.

Thelma Campbell lives along Lansdowne Road about a quarter mile from the Kaiser Compressor plant. She said she was awakened about 12:30 a.m. by the storm.

“I was just shaking like a leaf,” she said.

Her shed was been blown away and her boat is missing. Pieces of her shed have been found miles away, but there’s no sign of the boat anywhere, she said.

Campbell said the winds must have been intense to destroy the sturdy outbuilding.

“You couldn’t even drive a nail through that wood,” she said of the shed.

Cathy Gagnon and her family moved into their home on Brushy Creek Drive in December. She isn’t sure when they’ll be able to live in it again.

Gagnon said she had put her children to bed and was watching “ER” about 10:30 last night when “the sound of the wind changed.”

The initial burst passed, she said, but about 15 minutes later the wind made what Gagnon described as a “spinning type” noise.

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Mobile kitchen offers some relief

After last night’s storm, a preteen boy in a pajamas and bathrobe foraged for breakfast. He found some—in the form of a PopTart and juice—from the Salvation Army’s canteen.

The mobile kitchen opened at 11 a.m. at the England Run subdivision in Stafford County and later moved to Gayle Middle School. The canteen mainly serves the first responders helping residents whose homes were damaged in last night’s storms.

But many residents have stopped by for lunch, coffee and tea as well, said Captain Christine Harris of the Fredericksburg Area Salvation Army. In nearly two hours, more than 40 people have eaten lunch at the canteen, she said.

She and the group’s workers are stocking the canteens shelves and serving at the same time. This emergency marks the canteen’s début, since the agency’s earlier mobile kitchen was destroyed by arson two years ago, Harris said.

- Amy Umble, The Free Lance-Star