by Kerry Dougherty

Virginia Beach isn’t tornado country. We know the drill with hurricanes. We had a rash of those in the ‘80s and ‘90s. From August to November most of us keep well-stocked hurricane boxes handy. And we have days — sometimes more than a week — to prepare or evacuate when a storm is heading our way.

But when an ear-piercing tornado siren shrieked from our cellphones early Sunday evening — giving us what turned out to be a one-minute warning before the twister touched down in Great Neck — it required split-second action.

This arrived on my phone at 5:47 p.m.

The tornado touched down at 5:48, according to the National Weather Service.

By 5:53 it was gone. Yet the aftermath looked like Armageddon.

Looks like the residents in the Great Neck section of the city quickly found safety inside their homes. This powerful twister, that reached EF-3 status with peak winds of 145 mph, caused no deaths, no injuries.

The devastation to homes, however, was stunning. In five minutes that tornado ripped a 4.5-mile swath from the Lynnhaven River to Ft. Story, damaging an estimated 115 homes along the way. Some were pulled off their foundations and had the roofs sucked off. Cars were flipped, boats were airborne, old-growth trees became missiles.

Remember, this was Sunday evening. People were HOME. Yet no one was injured.

Thank God.

By the time the sun was up Monday morning dazed residents were cleaning up the debris and surveying the destruction. Families lost more than walls and roofs, of course. They lost irreplaceable memorabilia. Some lost their homes.

But no lives were lost. No one was injured. Looking at the photos that’s hard to believe.

A horror and a miracle. In five minutes.

Republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed and Unedited.