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History looks back at Tri-Cities tornado of 1993

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PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR)--It was 1:30 in the afternoon on Friday, August 6. 1993 and many were just finishing up lunch as the shops in Old Towne Petersburg bustled.

There was little warning as the F-4 tornado touched down in Petersburg, damaging buildings that dated back to the mid 1800s, more than a dozen people were trapped in the rubble.

Less than two miles away, the tornado crosses the Appomattox River and cut a swath through several buildings before it sliced through the Colonial Heights Wal-Mart.

Three women died there, and a fourth victim, male, was killed in Prince George County at a construction site.

It would be more than a decade before Old Towne Petersburg began to prosper again, and nearly that long for most area fire, police and rescue departments to get prepared for the next time.

Most agencies can now talk with each other at the flip of a switch, not the case in 1993. In fact, most first responders that day didn't have individual two-way radios.

Fire departments moved to buying a "quint", a fire truck that is capable of handling a variety of emergencies.

One of the biggest changes though, comes in how first responders train.

Now not only do neighboring jurisdictions train together often, departments from across Central Virgina now train with each other.

Officials say they realized that in a mass casualty incident, no one department can handle it on their own, so a uniform training system is a way to get everyone on board to help each other in an emergency.