A horrific string of storms and tornadoes hit central Florida last night and today. 14 deaths have been attributed to the storm and hundreds of homes have been destroyed overnight.
See video from the Weather Channel.
The storm went through so many mobile homes that it “looks like a war zone; it’s been totally devastated,” said Ed Nathanson, Lady Lake’s police chief.
An official at the county’s emergency operations center said more than 500 buildings were damaged or destroyed across the county. Some people were still reported to be missing.
Up to 100 homes were damaged in Sumter County, but there were no reports of deaths. Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency for Volusia, Sumter, Lake and Seminole counties. “Our priority today is search and rescue,” Crist told reporters in Tallahassee. via MSNBC
The storms hit overnight and caused extensive damage in the dark while many were still sleeping.
Dozens of mobile homes near Lady Lake were destroyed. Chairs, beds and clothes were strewn about yards, with debris hanging from trees. Some homes were tossed from their foundations, while others had their roofs ripped off.
The storms moved across Sumter and Lake counties around 3:15 a.m., then moved to Volusia County, where more than 100 homes were damaged in New Smyrna Beach and 10 people were transported to hospitals with injuries. A county medical clinic in DeLand was severely damaged.
“The most dangerous tornado scenario is a threat for killer tornadoes at night, and that was the case,” said Dave Sharp, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“I can say with high confidence that it’s tornado damage. It’s not straight-line wind damage,” Sharp said.