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NJ Couple Killed When Tornado Hits Va. Campground

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two people are dead and dozens of others were injured after a tornado touched down at a campground on the Eastern Shore of Virginia Thursday morning.

    According to Virginia State Police, more than 30 people were hospitalized, mainly with minor injuries like cuts and broken bones.

    A couple from New Jersey died when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son has been hospitalized with serious injuries, State Police said.

    Troopers identified the couple as Lord Balatbat, 38, and Lolabeth Ortega, 38. 

    The F-1 tornado, confirmed by the National Weather Service later in the afternoon, slammed into the Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort, overturning several campers, a spokesperson for the Eastville Volunteer Fire Department told WAVY.com.

    "All hell broke loose,'' said Joe Colony, who has been coming to the campground for 30 years. "We got an emergency message on a cellphone, and within 30 seconds, the thing hit and it blew down 40, 50 trees in the park."

    About 1,300 adults and children were at the sprawling campground on the Chesapeake Bay when the storm hit, according to the state Emergency Management Department. The campground has pools, mini-golf, cabins and several piers for fishing. 

    Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller confirmed the deaths.

    “We are all saddened by the reports of injuries and lives lost in this storm and will continue to offer our thoughts and prayers to the Virginia families who were affected, along with whatever support is necessary to help these communities move forward," Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday afternoon. 

    The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area. A team was headed there to determine if a twister hit.

    "It came in real quick,'' Eastville volunteer firefighter Brittney Eder told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "The sky turned jet black.''

    Eder said she left the campground before the full force of the storm hit.

    Joe Micucci said he and his wife couldn't escape in their car because of hail the size of softballs, so they rode out the storm in their camper. He said he felt fortunate they weren't hurt.

    "We saw at least five (campers) that were flipped over. One was completely gone and only had its wheels left,'' said Micucci, of Washington Township, New Jersey.

    Peter Glagola, spokesman for Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, said the hospital was treating more than two dozen patients as of Thursday afternoon, most of whom were in fair condition with injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones.

    Glagola said more patients were expected to be brought to the hospital, which is about 30 minutes north of the campground. One patient in critical condition was flown to VCU Medical Center in Richmond, he said.

    Hospitals in Virginia Beach and Norfolk had been preparing for mass casualties but had received just three patients, one of whom was taken to a nearby children's hospital, said Sentara Healthcare spokesman Dale Gauding.

    Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who is also a pediatric specialist, was working at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk and treated some of the patients affected by the storm.

    "As an Eastern Shore native, my heart goes out to all those affected by today's storm," Northam said in a statement. "I know working together we will forge ahead in the face of adversity."

    Multiple vehicle rollovers have been attributed to the severe weather, which also included hail and rain. 

    Overturned boats have been reported in Oyster Bay, north of Cape Charles, according to WAVY.com.

    A spokesperson for the Coast Guard could not confirm whether anyone was on the boats.

    The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area that expired at 9 a.m. Thursday.

    Stay with NBCWashington on-air and online for more on this story.