Remembering the Tri-Cities Tornado: 'That was a bad day'

Posted at 6:40 PM, Aug 07, 2023

PETERSBURG, Va. -- As CBS 6 tracked severe weather across Central Virginia Monday afternoon, we remembered the 30-year anniversary of the day an F-4 tornado touched down in Petersburg and left behind a path of destruction through the Tri-Cities.

Four people were killed, with three dying inside a Colonial Heights Walmart and one in Prince George County.

"Wondering if it could happen again," Petersburg Police Deputy Chief Emanuel Chambliss said.

"Every time we have a bad storm, I go upstairs and watch the Western sky," Richard Wilson, who lived through the 1993 tornado, said.

Retired Petersburg Police Officer Greg Seidel also lived through the 1993 tornado.

"I mean that was a bad day," Seidel said. "The roof collapsed, there was a big beam, and a lot of plaster, all that sort of stuff."

On the same day 30 years ago, Officer Chambliss remembers getting into his police car.

"I remember turning on my radio in my police car and hearing officers calling for help for buildings collapsed in Old Towne with people trapped," Chambliss said.

When he arrived at the scene, Chambliss said he saw "several buildings behind him that had collapsed" with roofs fallen in on themselves.

Richard Wilson was in his pickup truck on Grove Avenue when the tornado passed over, while his father was in front of their Sycamore Street business.

"He told me he got blown back into the building, he landed on his back inside the door," Wilson said.

Wilson remembers the sounds in the city after the tornado was gone.

"The noise of the sirens, and the fire alarms going off."

Now three decades after that tornado, many remember the first responders and ordinary citizens who jumped in to help uncover and rescue those that were trapped.

"I think that the response saved lives," Seidel said.

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