Dangerous weather in South Florida led to a twister touching down in West Broward, causing property damage, trapping residents in their homes, leaving fallen trees blocking roads, even flinging a Jacuzzi across a neighborhood.
A tornado watch for South Florida, originally in effect until 6 a.m. Wednesday, has been lifted after a night that produced at least two twisters – in West Broward and Glades counties.
The one that touched down near Sunrise was unusually powerful for South Florida, said Robert Molleda, a National Weather Service meteorologist who was part of a team that surveyed the damage. The preliminary assessment: An EF2, producing winds between 111 and 135 mph, on a measure of tornado strength called the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
“It was a strong tornado, period,’’ he said. “For South Florida, it was something very strong. Maybe we’ll have one or two a decade.’’
Along the twister’s path in West Broward, daybreak in Sunrise allowed residents hardest hit and city public works employees to assess damage.
Massive trees were toppled over, and several trailer homes along Commodore Drive were ripped apart — roofs peeled open, metal awnings bended into obscure shapes, and long strips of metal hung from tree limbs like ornaments.
Joel Cussell says his Sunrise home sustained extensive damage, including a shattered bedroom window. But he told WLRN-Miami Herald News that many houses around him were left in far worse shape.
"All of the sudden I heard this big ’whoosh’ of wind, then the lights went out, and I said [to my family]: ‘We’re out of here.’
“I’ve got trash cans, roof debris, large pieces of tar paper that was adhered from the roof. Now they’re just like giant weapons,” he said.
Hugo de Ferrari walked outside of his two story peach colored home on a cul de sac of Northwest 133rd Ave and 11th Court snapping pictures of a massive tree flipped upside down in front of his home. The tree was from two houses down and had been lifted by the strong winds to now cover the black Hummer parked in his driveway.
"I have a Jacuzzi in my backyard," de Ferrari said. "I don’t’ know where it came from, but it’s there now."
Ferrari recalled how Hurricane Wilma in 2005 brought the neighborhood together, and how Wednesday night’s storm did the same.
"I had neighbors yelling, ’Hugo! Hugo! Are you OK?’ when they saw the tree outside," he said. "This is when you really feel the sense of community."
Several homes were struck after 10 p.m. near Northwest 133rd Avenue and Eighth Street in Plantation, said Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said. “The damage is pretty severe in some spots.” Gordon said. He had no further details, but said minor injuries were reported.
In Sunrise, a fire dispatcher said residents had reported property damage in the same area. Eighth Street is the dividing line between Sunrise and Plantation.
“We’ve had preliminary reports of roofs ripped off homes and of at least one house totally destroyed,” said National Weather Service forecaster David Ross.
The storm system had moved north from West Miami-Dade into Broward, moving across Pembroke Pines, Davie and into Sunrise. It continued into western Palm Beach County and points north.
On a cul-de-sac of the Shannon Lakes Estates subdivision on Northwest 133rd Avenue in Sunrise, neighbors surveying in the damage paused to coo over 1-year-old Adriana Wilken who played in the rain in her pink plastic sandals.
"She was covered in glass," her father Andres Wilken told neighbors.
When the tornado ripped through the community, it shattered windows in Wilken’s two story home. He had just fallen asleep when he said he felt the "house shaking."
"My first instinct was to run upstairs," Wilken said.
He lifted his daughter from her crib when he saw her covered in small bits of class. She was awake, but not crying. With the power out, Wilken took a flashlight to determine if his daughter had any cuts, but thankfully there weren’t any.
"It all happened in a flash," Wilken said. "It’s not like a hurricane where you have time to prepare. This caused so much damage in a matter of seconds."
Luis Carmona, walked through his backyard Wednesday morning, surveying the chunks of wood, bits of plastic, metal strips floating in his pool. A brick grill was reduced to a pile of broken pieces.
"We use to have a trampoline, who knows where that is," Carmona said.
His backyard was the scene of many along 133rd Avenue — a flurry of pink insulation strewn about, pieces of other people’s white picket fences, plastic lawn chairs, overturned blue recycling bins, and piles of broken tree limbs and plants.
"It all started with a large ’boom’," Carmona said. "All of a sudden I hear my kids screaming so I run to see if they’re OK. The windows blew out and I moved everybody into the bathroom."
His wife and four kids ages 1 through 9 remained huddled in the bathroom for less then 5 minutes before deciding that it was OK to leave.
Like many on his block, Carmona took photos of the broken windows, torn off Spanish tiles, and other damage to show his insurance company.
"I never knew what a tornado looked like," Carmona said. "Now I’ll never forget."
In Martin County, fire-rescue crews were dispatched to Indiantown Tuesday night where they found a home with "moderate damage," a barn behind the home that was completely destroyed and the neighboring VFW lodge with a collapsed exterior wall and missing roof
By late Wednesday, a cold front is finally expected to push across South Florida and drive out a sluggish, soggy tropical wave that made for a dreary couple of days but also went a long way toward ending South Florida’s lingering drought concerns.
The deluges from the broad low-pressure system have crept slowly up the state, with gauges at the briefly flooded-out Key West Airport brimming with a record 6.55 inches on Monday and the Southwest coast expected to have gotten nearly as much, maybe more, on Tuesday. Another two to three inches, possibly more, were expected through Wednesday in and north of Lake Okeechobee, which has risen nearly a foot since another storm last week.
Forecasters expect things to begin brightening by Wednesday afternoon, and the Thursday forecast is picture-postcard: little chance of rain, partly sunny skies, a high topping out around 80 and the evening cooling down into the high 50s. That pattern is expected to stay in place through at least Saturday.
Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, which runs the flood-control system for a 16-county region stretching from Orlando to Key West, said there were breaks between the most intense storms, which helped limit flooding.
South Florida’s system of drainage canals and pumps, most of it built a half-century ago, can typically handle up to six inches a day, unless it all comes at once. Water managers had lowered many major canals in advance of the wave.
“As far as storms go, this has been very kind to the flood control system so far,’’ he said. “It’s letting us get some water out of the system to make room for more.’’
Though water managers were dumping millions of gallons out to sea to control suburban flooding, the rains did bring most of the water conservation areas west of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties back to near-normal levels after a severe drought.
The storms also have topped off other critical areas, including the chain of lakes north of Lake Okeechobee. The big lake itself, which serves as the region’s water barrel, is expected to continue rising for the next few weeks, from runoff over the last few days and record rains only a week earlier across the Kissimmee River basin, which drains south into Lake O.
The lake level crossed the 12-foot elevation line on Tuesday, up nearly a foot since a week ago. Water managers had predicted it could rise another six inches to a foot before this week’s storms.
The lake is still about two feet below where the district and U.S. Corps of Engineers, which co-manage the lake, want it to be entering the dry season. But if waters rise another 10 inches or so, the lake will move out of official “water shortage’ status for the first time since last summer.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/10/19/v-print/2461284/tornando-rips-through-west-broward.html#ixzz1bG2hlBjp