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Possible tornado destroys two buildings, causes havoc to area
Date published: 7/9/2012
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY AND LIANA BAYNE
A strong windstorm Sunday afternoon destroyed two buildings and damaged several others in the Four-Mile Fork area of Spotsylvania County and injured seven people, but none of the injuries was life-threatening.
Witnesses believe a tornado touched down, but the National Weather Service will not be able to determine what it was until officials visit the scene or study photographs.
Jared Klein, a meteorologist with the service's Sterling office, said a severe thunderstorm that passed through the Fredericksburg area created a downburst, a strong downdraft that causes damaging winds on or near the ground. Based on a description of the damage, he said it sounded more like a microburst than a tornado. Microbursts can be as damaging as a tornado, but they are confined to a smaller area.
NOTHING TO CHEER ABOUT
Cheer Fusion All-Stars, a cheerleading gym on Fleming Street, between Lafayette Boulevard and U.S. 1, was blown apart by the storm.
Parts of the concrete-block building ended up on top of a house next door. That house, owned by John and Pamela Bettis, sustained major damage and will likely be a total loss.
Mandi Spina, director of Cheer Fusion, said 14 cheerleaders, ages 11 to 18, were in the facility for a 5 p.m. practice when the storm hit.
Parents noticed the storm approaching, Spina said. They saw hail and then rain. The lights flickered on and off and then went out. The adults decided to herd everyone into an interior room, but before they could do that, a wall collapsed.
"Bricks were flying," she said. "When they opened the door [after the storm], there was nothing outside."
Parent Bill Johnson described the moment the storm hit.
"You could feel the pressure, and it was like a balloon," he said. "The lights went out. Kids started screaming. We just got in a corner and huddled down."
He said stuff was flying around inside the cheer studio.
Connie Allen, the owner of Cheer Fusion, was coaching when the storm struck.
"I could see the whirlwind," she said. "Then all of a sudden the garage door came in."
Cierra Davis, a rising seventh-grader at Battlefield Middle, and Meghan Thatcher, a rising Spotsylvania High freshman, were among the cheerleaders practicing at Cheer Fusion.