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Tri-Cities Tornado: 25 years later man remembers nearly being ripped from bed

Posted at 4:50 PM, Aug 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-06 16:50:27-04

PETERSBURG, Va. --  Monday, August 6, 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the day a tornado tore through the Tri-Cities .

"It's a day that changed me and helped shape my career," CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil recalled. "Twenty-five years later,  the images I captured that day, just minutes after the Petersburg tornado struck Old Towne  and Pocahontas Island are as vivid as the memories of that horrific day."

As first responders made their way towards Old Towne after the tornado struck August 6, 1993, I was not far behind.

I was inside my Sycamore Street office, working on a story, when the back door was slammed open and closed by the wind. I realized something was wrong, I grabbed my gear and I took off running.

When I got outside, I saw the damage. The tornado had torn roofs off building and collapsed walls.

Harry Jones was in bed when he heard the tornado.

"By that time I had gotten out of the bed and the whole 3rd floor and half the 2nd floor wall went out of the building," Jones recalled 25 years later.

The falling wall crushed and collapsed the roof of the Ferguson building next door.

Darlene Brown, who managed the Petersburg Visitors Center in 1993, remembered taking cover at first, then working to get her staff out of the building.

"The doors were blocked," she said in a 1993 interview. "The chimney had come down, so the bricks were in front of the door, so we pushed our way out."

The F4 tornado had winds estimated at 210 miles per hour when it hit Petersburg.

It caused $15 million in damage, impacting 58 buildings in Old Towne Petersburg and 47 homes on Pocahontas Island.

The aftermath left the historic Southside train station in rubble, sheets of tin from roofs hang in electrical wires, cars crushed from falling bricks.

The tornado touched down just weeks before city officials declared Olde Towne as being in a economic renaissance.

Even though a congressional delegation toured the city the day after the tornado, it took months -- even years -- to rebuild.