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What to do if severe weather hits while you’re camping

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Within minutes, the deadly tornado that ripped through an Eastern Shore campground Thursday morning caused massive destruction and devastation.

The powerful storm also has campers here at Pocahontas State Park concerned — and thinking about safety.

“About how quick it can happen without notice,” Phillip Wilborn said.

Wilborn and his family are avid campers, but got a little worried after seeing severe storms roll through our area Thursday afternoon.

“When they said it was actually a possible warning for a tornado for the park. That’s when we decided to go inside of a building,” Wilborn said.

Wilborn said they ran to the laundry mat on property to seek shelter.

But the scariest part for his 8-year-old nephew was the fear that a twister could break glass.

But it wasn’t glass that damaged the awning on Wilborn’s RV, but high winds and heavy rains.

“Usually, I put it up first. But that time, we worried about out of here going somewhere else,” Wilborn said.

Jonathan McNamara, a spokesman with the American Red Cross, said Wilborn and his family did the right thing — getting to a secure structure.

“Now, this can be a bathroom, this can be an indoor shower or recreation space. Anywhere that allow you to put as many walls between you and the outside where there’s going to be debris — possible trees falling. So it’s important to have that safe places,” McNamara said.

Jonathan McNamara with the American Red Cross said if there’s no structure around — get to the lowest level possible — like a ditch.

“Because it’s at that moment where you need to take shelter. Because in that instance, minutes can allow you to have time that will save your life,” said McNamara.

And he said one of the biggest mistakes campers make during severe weather is taking cover in their RV.

“No mobile home, RV, or car is going to be safe when you’re dealing with a tornado situation. That’s why getting out of that vehicle as quickly as possible and getting to that safe place,” McNamara said.

McNamara advised campers to check in with the campground’s staff to learn the layout and find out the safe places where you can go in the event of severe weather.

Additionally, campers should keep a survival kit on hand that includes a flashlight, first-aid kit, weather radio, toiletries, water and food rations.

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