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Fredericksburg Storm 'Lifted the House Up'

John Bettis said he was watching the hail fall outside his bathroom window when all of the sudden he heard a loud boom.

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John Bettis thought had struck the Fredericksburg area Sunday afternoon. But this wasn't an earthquake that shook the foundation of his home—it was either a microburst or a tornado with winds above 100 mph reported in some areas.

"All the lights went out and it lifted the house up," he said outside his heavily damaged home at 4010-1 Lafayette Blvd. "And then boom!"

Spotsylvania County fire and rescue members safely removed Bettis and his wife, Pamela, from the home that was crushed by the airborne roof from 86 Fleming St. where about a dozen cheerleaders with Cheer Fusion were inside practicing along with a dozen or more parents.

Mandi Spina, the cheer director, said at least two parents were hospitalized when the roof was torn off the cinder-block building and part of it collapsed with the walls. Spotsylvania County authorities were unable to provide the total number of people injured in the storm Sunday night.

"We went into the dance room because it is steel re-inforced, then the bricks started falling and the walls caved in," she said.

Frank Kuhn Jr, 95, who lives in a small home behind the restaurant Grandma's Getaway at 4010 Lafayette Blvd., said hail from the storm broke two windows in his house and the wind damaged his foundation, which made his home uninhabitable. 

"I was in the bed resting and the whole damn house shook," he said.

Braden Smith, an on-air personality at Thunder 104.5, said the storm damaged the radio tower and both 104.5 and SuperHits 95.9 were knocked off the air.

"Crews are on the scene right now with a crane trying to patch us back on. Working to get us back on by the time our morning guys come in at 5 a.m. if not sooner," he posted on the Fredericksburg Patch Facebook page. By 11 p.m. Sunday night they were back on the air.

Storefronts in Fleming Center off U.S. 1 were also heavily damaged. Crystal Smith, who owns Set-N-Trendz Hair Salon at 4604 Jefferson Davis Hwy., said it was a crazy scene. She said it first started hailing and her daughter, Sierra, noticed water flooding into the front door.

"All of the sudden it was just white and then a huge tree branch flew by," she said.

Smith yelled for her daughter to follow her to the hair color room, where they hugged each other until the storm ended a few minutes later.

"After I heard the crash, I just looked out and the whole front ceiling was in the waiting area," she said. "I just thank God we're OK."

Virginia Mattress Direct owner Drew Frye posted a video of the damage to his store in Fleming Center.  His wife, Heather, posted on his Facebook page thanking friends for their support and well-wishes.

"Thank you all for your calls and texts and messages! We appreciate your support and concern. The tornado completely devastated our store, our neighbors' businesses, Cheer Fusion and some residential areas. Luckily we were not there when it hit and we are safe. It's gonna be quite a journey ahead of us but we do appreciate our friends and family!!"

At about midnight, Drew Frye posted another message on his Facebook page: "I want to thank everyone that has reached out to me and my family with support. It means more than any of you will ever know that we have so many caring generous people in our lives. We are fortunate that we have insurance that should cover the items damaged and even more fortunate no one was hurt. Va Mattress is still open for business just without a showroom for the time being."

The National Weather Service has not officially confirmed if the storm was a tornado or a microburst, both of which can have wind gusts as high as 150 mph.

Dominion Virginia Power says if you are without power, call 866-366-4357 to report it so they can restore it. Almost 1,000 people were without power in Spotsylvania County late Sunday night.

The Fredericksburg area hasn't seen this kind of heavy wind-storm damage since a May 8, 2008 tornado tore through England Run North, with more than two dozen homes condemned. Overall, at least 160 structures were damaged, including some in Peacock Station and Wallace Farms subdivisions and on Hulls Chapel Road.

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Correction: The address for Mr. Bettis's home is 4010-1 Lafayette Blvd.

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