Deadly tornadoes and heavy thunderstorms struck central and southern Florida Sunday morning, leaving at least two people dead.
According to Accuweather.com, the extensive tornado damage was reported in both Siesta Key and Duette between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m. EST.
“A line of strong thunderstorms crossed central and South Florida during the early morning hours of Sunday, spawning the tornadoes,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.
Multiple homes near Siesta Key, Florida, were hit and, as a result, endured extensive damage due to the storm. One home was completely destroyed, and a woman had to be pulled from the devastating wreckage with the help of emergency responders. Because of the fierce storm damage, some roofs were torn from people’s homes.
Officials of Sarasota County said that approximately 17,000 customers were without power on Sunday morning. The National Weather Service survey team concluded the tornado that struck down in Duette produced substantial EF2 damage as well as wind gusts up to 127 mph.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said that as a result of this horrific storm, two adults were killed and five people were injured, including four young children.
“I’m amazed to see anybody got out of this alive,” he said.
According to Steube, two adults, their son, and four grandchildren were all inside a mobile home when the massive tornado struck down. Steven Wilson died instantly when the twister managed to tear the home to shreds. His wife, Kate, was rushed to the hospital but sadly passed away after suffering from a heart attack.
Their son, Steven, somehow had the remarkable strength to crawl out of the wreckage and managed to get the rest of the children to safety. All of the children are currently being treated at a nearby hospital but are expected to make a full recovery.
“The destructive storm cell passed over the northern Tampa Bay area first before reaching Sarasota and Manatee counties, but left behind only rain,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming.
According to CBS News, Tampa officials had to close the Skyway Bridge on Sunday for the second time in a row after wind speeds reached up to 50 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. Eventually, the bridge was re-opened at 12:30 p.m.
“This was a very quick-moving system,” Fleming said. “Once it got farther south, the ingredients lined up to produce this severe weather.”
The weekend’s vicious storms come less than a week after there were confirmed reports that several tornadoes touched down in Lee County. “It’s unusual for Florida tornadoes to cause such extensive damage, Fleming said, but during El Niño winters like this one, severe thunderstorms are more common.”
“We can’t say El Niño caused (the tornadoes) per se, but it put ingredients together to make it more likely,” he explained.
Florida might see even more storms in the near future.
“We’ll see a more active weather pattern into February and early March,” said 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Ashley Batey.
In regards to the rest of the upcoming week, Batey said that the bay area will endure a cold snap. Overnight lows will dip around the 40-degree mark or so. By Thursday, temperatures will reach the upper 60s and lower 70s, but by the time the weekend arrives, temperatures will drop once again.
“It will cool things down a little bit but won’t be as sharp as this one,” Batey said.
The next round of thunderstorms is expected to hit Tampa Bay by Friday, she said, but will be more docile.
Residents in the state of Florida can now relax a bit since the storm has since moved on.
“The severe weather threat is over,” Batey said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Early Sunday, the Sarasota Police Department surveyed the wrath of the storm’s damage and reported downed power lines and trees as well as some flooding.
It is rare to see tornadoes in beach communities, however, they aren’t that quite uncommon either.
“It does happen, especial in an El Nino year,” Rodney Wynn, an NWS meteorologist, said. “It’s not common, but it’s very possible.”
[Photo by Getty Images]