Update: The threat of severe weather conditions in the area has now officially ended as of 9:00 a.m. on Sunday. In addition to the original two tornadoes reported, a third is also confirmed to have touched down near Hobe Sound just after 7:00 a.m. EST. As of yet, no additional deaths have been reported. Cleanup and restoration efforts are now in full swing for all impacted areas.
GoFund accounts have been established in honor of the Wilsons, the couple killed, to assist in caring for their grandchildren, ranging in age from 6 to 10, per The Tampa Tribune. These can be found at gofundme.com by entering the search phrase “Duette Tornado Victim’s Family” or “Duette Tornado Victims Dad and Kids.”
Residents in central Florida were caught off guard after tornadoes, rare for the area, ripped through their quaint community of Manatee and claimed the lives of two of their residents. In the aftermath of the destruction, a couple was left dead, and five members of their family who were in the home at the time were left with severe injuries. The National Weather Service has confirmed that at least two tornadoes touched down in the area early Sunday morning.
Huffington Post reports the names of the couple killed as Stephen and Kelli Wilson, aged 58 and 51 respectively. They were asleep in their mobile home when the fatal tornado struck. Stephen was killed on the scene, and his wife suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital. The tornado was a category EF2 with accompanying winds of approximately 127 mph. The Wilsons were pronounced dead upon their arrival at the hospital, according to the local sheriff’s department.
Deadly Tornadoes Tear Through Parts of Central Florida: An unusual set of January tornadoes ripped through nei… https://t.co/pnK1PujzoS
— World_News_N1 (@World_News_N1) January 18, 2016
Amazingly, the couple’s adult son was able to escape along with four children who were in the home, identified as the couple’s grandchildren, with non-life threatening injuries. Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube noted that the home had been completely destroyed.
A second tornado touched down in Sarasota County. There were no deaths in that incident, but roughly 17,000 residents were left without power, and hundreds of homes experienced severe property damage.
Fox meteorologist Mike Bennett commented on the incident.
“It’s not all that common to seen an EF2 tornado in this area, but if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the winter months and it’s going to happen during El Niño.”
— StartupTHINK (@Startup_Think) January 18, 2016
Residents of the two areas flooded social media with photos of the destruction. Many homes had collapsed or had their roofs torn off. Authorities estimate the total cost of the damage to both Manatee and Sarasota County to run approximately $3 million.
According to the NY Daily News, Governor Rick Scott planned to survey the areas impacted later on Sunday evening.
Assistance efforts by the Red Cross and Salvation Army have already begun for those impacted by the damage. Power companies and other organizations are also out in force.
More details to come as they are made available.
[AP Photo / Butch Dill]