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Firefighter shares first-hand account of Virginia Beach tornado response

Days after a powerful EF-3 twister ripped through the area, cleanup efforts are making a dent.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Neighbors in the Great Neck section of Virginia Beach are proving they are resilient.

While the areas hardest hit by Sunday evening's EF-3 tornado remain in rough shape, there are some signs of recovery evident in the relatively clear roads and crews already fixing roofs.

Residents and volunteers have been keeping at it, sifting through the rubble.

Jim Sullivan lives in Broad Bay Point Greens. 13News Now caught up with him on Haversham Close. 

"Devastating, just devastating and heartbreaking because we know most of these people along the street," said Sullivan. 

His home was not affected. But as part of the local civic league, he has been riding a bike through the affected neighborhoods offering snacks and water.

"We're just trying to help out however we can," Sullivan added. 

Moreover, debris and tree limbs are either piled up or tree services have cleared them out.

A city spokeswoman told 13News Now that the latest estimation of residential damage was at $16,984,355. It was previously tallied at more than $15 million. 

The spokeswoman also sent the following counts Friday, outlining damage to homes.

  • 28 affected 
  • 33 minor 
  • 36 major 
  • 9 destroyed

Longtime firefighter and Assistant Fire Chief Jack Crandell said he has never seen devastation like this in Virginia Beach. He helped manage emergency response Sunday evening.

Crandell said about 50 members of the Virginia Beach Fire Department searched more than 100 homes, twice. While working to secure gas lines, they only had to rescue one dog. 

"Not even any pet casualties, which is another blessing," Crandell said.

Crandell commended residents for taking the tornado warning alert seriously.

"Everything was in place for a lot of people to get hurt and it just didn't happen, we're just so fortunate," he added. 

And, he drew a comparison to the 2012 military jet crash in Virginia Beach, in which no one died. He called it "unbelievable." That incident was dubbed the "Good Friday Miracle." 

Crandell, neighbors and the plenty of volunteers on hand described what happened Sunday as a "miracle," too. No one died and no one was injured.


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