ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Four tornadoes reportedly touched down in Bay area counties Friday afternoon as a line of intense storms moved swiftly through the area and across the state.
What’s believed to be an EF-1 tornado touched down Friday afternoon in New Port Richey, part of a long line of storms that ripped off roofs, downed trees and left thousands without power.
Tornadoes were also confirmed in Spring Hill in Hernando County, Seminole in Pinellas County, and Land O’Lakes in Pasco County. Damage was reported at homes in Larendale Circle. About seventeen homes had roof damage.
In Seminole, plans were under way to open at least two shelters for residents affected by storm damage to their homes.
A total of 14 tornado warnings were issued Friday afternoon.
As of 12:30 p.m., 449 TECO customers were without power. | Check outage map
Between 500 – 2,000 Duke Energy customers are without power, mainly in Pinellas County. | Check outage map
Areas Severely Impacted by the Storms
Some of the worst damage reports are coming from Hernando County where at least 20 homes have been damaged.
Residents in Spring Hill said the weather started like a regular afternoon thunderstorm, and the next thing they knew they were running for cover.
“It literally just felt like we were in a blender. Blending food, strawberries, bananas, and BOOM, out of nowhere it just came,” Devan Kirland said.
Kirland said the tornado ripped apart her lanai and peeled off portions of her roof.
“The damage was fast and very costly now,” Kirland said.
Another Spring Hill resident said they were shocked to hear that a tornado passed through.
“We didn’t hear it like a train coming, so we said it couldn’t have been a tornado, and then when we came outside we were shocked to see across the street which was all damaged, our side had hardly anything,” Jane Daley said.
Spectrum Bay News 9 Reporter Laurie Davison said she already saw blue tarps on people’s homes as shingles were ripped off. She also saw a lot of trees down in yards, even on top of some houses.
Seminole resident Mitchell Wajda said the storm blew off his roof and that most of his belongings are now ruined.
“Because of the rain, everything is wet. Everything wet. Whatever tall cabinets were standing are laying down in a pile. A pile of mess,” Wajda said.
Wajda ended up staying at one of the shelters Red Cross opened up Friday night, located at Christ Lutheran Church in St. Pete. And despite his own loss, Wajda is still worried about others.
“I feel so sorry for so many people out there because there’s lots of damage out there,” he said.
John Zimmerman from Seminole also said his mobile home inside Conrad Mobile Park sustained major damage.
“The wind started blowing. It sounded like a freight train and I heard crumbling of a bunch of metal,” he said. “I was looking out the window and the wind was blowing so fast. It would have knocked someone right off their feet. I could feel the trailer shaking.”
The National Weather Service said seven homes in the 3400 block of Player Drive, in the Fairway Springs subdivision, were damaged.
Neighbors said the power was knocked out as the storms rolled through.
“I know there’s several elderly ladies down here so I came down to make sure everyone was okay and that’s the important thing, you can get back your house, you can’t get back a human being,” resident and HOA President Linda Maxwell said.
Friday’s storms were so strong they knocked down several trees and ripped apart multiple lanai’s at Linda Langheld’s home.
“Part of the branches went through the bathroom windows and all the rest was up on top,” Langheld said.
Langheld wasn’t home when the storm came through but returned to the heavy damage.
“We’ve done a lot to improve on the property and update it and this wasn’t part of our restoration plans,” Langheld said.
In the same neighborhood, Kathy Schrader was in town visiting her sister when she heard the tornado warnings.
“The rain was coming sideways and branches were blowing and then we heard a big kaboom,” Schrader said.
That loud noise was another large tree that split in the front yard. Luckily, most of the branches fell forward.
“We’ve had neighbors come by, the fire department, police department, and now the clean-up people so we’re very lucky,” Schrader said.
Barn lands on car
While most homes in the Turtle Creek neighborhood received little to no damage, Maryann Plattner, 73, had the unfortunate luck of having her neighbor’s barn land on her car.
In her 43 years of living in her home near State Route 60, Plattner said she’s never seen anything like it.
She has survived seven heart attacks, and she almost had another one watching the storage barn fly over the fence, coming straight at her.
“I stood there, and the wind just picked that right up off the ground over the fenc,e and I said, ‘Please Lord, don’t let that hit my car. Bang. There it went,” Plattner said.
To make matters worse, a tree branch fell in her yard, destroying her screen room, new outdoor furniture, and her fence.
Only one other home nearby received minor damage.
Plattner hopes some help will come sooner rather than later.
— Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Polk County effects
Friday’s storm caused pine trees to snap in half in the Pine Lake neighborhood of Mulberry.
Sixty-five mile per hour winds were reported nearby at the Lakeland Linder International Airport, but looking at the damage, people living in Pine Lake think a funnel cloud passed over them.
“When it came through I thought, ‘Oh its just another storm,’ until I looked out my bedroom and saw the trees in the back snapping,” recalled resident Kathy Goodwin.
“This actually scared me more than Irma coming through at 125 miles per hour winds coming over my house. I was prepared for Irma. But I got the warning about (the storm) the same time it hit the house,” Goodwin added.
— Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Central Florida effects
As the line of storms made its way east, residents in Lake County felt its effects, as well. High winds blew trees down, which in turn took out power lines.
One of those downed power lines sparked a fire at the intersection of Buckhill road at Howey Cross Road near Clermont.
A homeowner we spoke to said he could only watch as trees and limbs came crashing down in his front yard, causing damage to his home.
“i was watching it through the window and the door and saw it coming down,” said Umadat Persaud. “But you just have to watch it and let it go.”
The downed power lines left some Lake County residents without power for several hours.
Click on the link to view some of our time-stamped updates throughout the storm on Friday.
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