Three tornados touched down in Florida as a storm system drenched the state’s Atlantic coast, including one tornado that left a trail of damage more than a mile long in a suburban neighborhood, officials said Wednesday. Minor injuries were reported.
The storm system soaked an already-soggy region late Tuesday, leaving behind damaged property, blocked roads and fallen trees.
Nearly 12 inches of rain have dumped on Key West since Friday. Big Coppitt Key received the most rain over the past four days, with 21 inches. Big Pine Key wasn’t far behind with 19 inches.
The Tampa Bay area was spared the worst Wednesday, picking up just some light rain. As of 8 p.m., Sarasota Bradenton International Airport had reported only .37 inches of rain for the day.
The tornados struck Broward County, Indiantown and Indian River County.
The Broward twister had top winds of 120 mph. Up to 50 homes were damaged in Plantation and Sunrise, though no serious injuries were reported. About a dozen homes were severely damaged, and two trailer homes were destroyed, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
“You could see the rotation of the whole storm system on Doppler radar,” said Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the weather service. “It was really strong, and we were concerned about a strong tornado going across the metro area.”
Neighbors gathered on a Sunrise street Wednesday to assess the damage.
Randa Kader said her husband was in the attic trying to find a leak when her son ran out of his room yelling that the neighbor’s roof was peeling off. As he did, the windows in his room blew out.
Kader, her son and two daughters huddled in the living room. “We couldn’t find my husband for a little while. We couldn’t hear him because of the loud noises,” said Kader, 43.
When it was over, a neighbor’s house was reduced to just its frame, four trees were broken in half in the yard and a concrete bench was cracked, she said.
“The strength of this thing was just tremendous,” Kader said.
No injuries were reported in Indiantown, where a tornado with winds up to 85 mph touched down, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.
It shook siding and roof shingles off a house, destroyed a barn on the property and blew out the roof and back wall from the VFW post next door, said Martin County Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Schobel.
“We’re finding pieces of the roof in the adjacent pasture,” he said.
The Indian River tornado struck with winds up to 65 mph, causing major damage to one unoccupied home and strewing debris for about a block in Indrio, according to the weather service.
Rain swamping Keys
Bands of thunderstorms with frequent lightning plagued the Keys on Wednesday, leading to the shutdown of all Monroe County schools and a weather service flood warning for the Middle and Lower Keys.
There was widespread flooding in Key West, including tourist-dominated Duval Street. More than 4 inches of rain dumped on the city Wednesday.
“Many roads are impassable, including all the usual suspects and some others that don’t usually flood,” said Alyson Crean, Key West spokeswoman. “We’re asking people to stay out of the neighborhoods where flooding tends to be worse.”
City officials encouraged everyone to stay out of standing water.
“Even though we have an up-to-date sewer system, it’s been taxed to pump all the heavy rains,” Crean said. “There can be some contamination in the water.”
Flood warnings for the Keys were lifted Wednesday afternoon, and Monroe schools will reopen Thursday morning.
“The heavier showers and thunderstorms are well off into the Atlantic,” meteorologist Mike Rapsik of the National Weather Service in Key West said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re hoping to get some sunshine in the next few days to dry out our streets.”
“If you want some good news, we’re expecting the cold front by late afternoon,” said Jon Lizzo, warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service in Key West. “Dry air is on its way. We should get some good dry days in before the Goombay Festival this weekend.”
Goombay is the start to Key West’s 10-day Fantasy Fest.
On Thursday and Friday night in Key West, temperatures are expected to dip near 70. “We haven’t seen that in a while,” Lizzo said. “It’s the first real cold front of the season.”
-- The Associated Press and Miami Herald contributed to this report.