Suffolk residents reflect on the devastating tornado that touched down 9 years ago

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-28 08:11:29-04

SUFFOLK, Va - It has been 9 years since an EF-3 tornado touched down in Suffolk destroying dozens of homes and striking fear into the hearts of all who witnessed it.

Carolyn Bell describes a scene of total destruction; "it looked like a war zone, the houses were in the street and the lake."

More than 20 homes in the Hillpoint Farms and Burnetts Mill neighborhoods were completely leveled. Debris littered the streets as residents came back for weeks to pick up what was left of their houses.

Bell said it sounded like a freight train coming through and it looked like a black cloud with dark tentacles hanging from the sky. It is an experience she and her husband said they will never forget.

"I turned around and I said Bobby, the houses are gone," said Bell as she recreated to the day for our News 3 reporter Rachael Cardin.

Video and aerial pictures show the tornado`s path but these images do not do justice to what Jeff Lander said saw first -hand.

Lander now lives in one of the homes that was destroyed in the tornado; "It's crazy to think this was laying in the street out there and had to be completely rebuilt, you just hope that it doesn`t strike twice," he said.

The good news? Not a single casualty amidst total destruction. Lander says it was God's will that nobody was hurt.

"All I can say is God's grace, because nobody got killed. Had it come 2-3 hours late who knows how many people could have gotten killed, but there was nobody home here and nobody got killed. To me that`s the coolest part."

Bell and Lander are friends and often talk about that April day in 2008 when their neighborhood was rocked by severe weather.

Bell said "Unless you`ve lived through it you can never get the true feeling of a tornado and thank God we weren`t hurt and nobody was hurt or killed out here."