The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
The day after, storm ‘seems like a bad dream’
BY KATIE THISDELL, LINDLEY ESTES
AND ROBYN SIDERSKY
Two people remained hospitalized Monday as others in Spotsylvania County’s Four-Mile Fork area began cleaning up the damage from what the National Weather Service called a microburst.
Though some witnesses reported that the severe thunderstorm Sunday evening had produced a tornado, the Sterling-based office of the NWS said it was a microburst, with winds up to 80 mph.
Michelle Smith and Heath Mullins, two of the four people taken to the hospital when the Cheer Fusion All-Stars gym collapsed in the storm, were listed in fair condition at Mary Washington Hospital on Monday, said hospital spokeswoman Debbie McInnis. The other two were treated and released, said Kathy Smith, spokeswoman for Spotsylvania County.
Cheer Fusion tumbling coach Devina Durney arrived at the gym on Fleming Street, between Lafayette Boulevard and U.S. 1, shortly after the storm. She said Mullins was helping cheerleaders and parents into a secure room when a beam fell on him.
“It just seems like a bad dream,” Durney said. “It’s hard to believe it’s real.”
Mullins’ wife said that he had multiple fractures: two toes, an ankle, a tibia, a knee and his back. He may also have nerve damage in his wrist.
“There were a lot of people running into the room,” she said. “He and one of the other cheer dads were making sure the women and children were in the room first. He was being a gentleman. He said he was just doing what came naturally. There wasn’t a lot of time.”
The Cheer Fusion building and five businesses in the neighboring Fleming Center had major damage from the storm, as did several nearby houses off Lafayette Boulevard.
‘BIG JOB’ FOR THE BETTISES
Though his house was destroyed in the storm, John Bettis is keeping a positive attitude.
“We’re doing real good,” he said Monday as he and his family carefully pulled items from the house.
“It’s so dangerous in there,” he said.
The Bettises’ house was moved about 10 feet off its foundation, and much of the debris from the Cheer Fusion building next door landed on the roof. John and Pam Bettis were inside during the storm, on the other side of the house. The living room, kitchen, utility room, two bathrooms and their bedroom were damaged.
“It’s going to be a big job cleaning up,” Bettis said.
When he first walked out onto the porch—which is barely standing—he couldn’t believe what he saw.
“I was shocked walking down the porch,” he said. “I didn’t know if I should walk down or not.”
FIRING UP CHAINSAWS
The whine of chainsaws filled the air in the Spotswood Estates subdivision off Lafayette Boulevard on Monday. On Mahogany Lane, Peggy Labbe and her husband lost three trees in their front yard. She was in the kitchen preparing dinner when the storm rolled in. Her husband was on his way home. She figured the kitchen would be a safe place, since it was near the rear of the house and all the trees in the back had been taken out in a hurricane.
“The wind was loud. I just heard a thump,” she said. “I thought a branch hit the top.”
But through the kitchen window, she saw one of the giant oak trees crack and topple over. It landed on the roof.
“Water was coming through our lights, but the ceiling didn’t collapse,” she said.
A block over on Jonquil Court, Daniel and Rebecca Webster were cleaning up their driveway Monday morning after trees fell and crushed the family’s two Jeeps. The couple, their 2-year-old son and Daniel’s mother were home when the storm came through the neighborhood. They were in the garage until Rebecca Webster herded them into the house, to safety.
“We saw it knock the tree over and smash our Jeeps,” Daniel Webster said.
They had spent most of Saturday and Sunday moving into the house from another one just two blocks over, he said. Most of the things in the couple’s yard, including many of their son’s toys, their bikes and three-wheelers and patio furniture were damaged.
Webster, a Marine stationed at Quantico, moves frequently. This isn’t the first time the family has been through a natural disaster. When they lived in Twentynine Palms, Calif., they were victims of a mudslide.
LIGHTNING HITS CHURCH
A few miles north, the steeple at Northside Baptist Church on Woodford Street in the city was struck by lightning. It split the structure and sent part of the cross to the ground.
“Never, ever have I seen anything like it,” said Mary Snellings, who has lived next door to the church for 55 years.
Snellings said she was sitting in her den when it happened.
“I heard it, and it scared me so bad,” she said. “It was a loud crash. I knew something had happened. I saw the lightning come down and I thought, ‘I hope it didn’t hit my house.’”
Snellings later found part of the cross in her front yard and returned it to the church after the storm cleared. Church member Virginia Weiss said she, her husband and her son aided in the cleanup.
“We all pitched in together,” she said in an email. “Patched a small part of the roof, we checked for any water damage inside the roof with flashlights (no power then) and our deacon climbed the roof along with another member to confirm the strike.”
The church was scheduled to be painted on Tuesday, she said.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976