Tornadoes Trash Florida Homes Christmas Day
Central Floridians pick up the pieces of damaged homes. A tornado in Volusia County critically injures 2 people.
December 26, 2006
Erin Ailworth and Sara A. Fajardo, Sentinel Staff Writers
A powerful weather system, including at least one tornado, tore through the state Monday as Floridians were celebrating Christmas.
Photo: A mobile-home park in DeLand is strewn with debris Monday after a storm. Homes and businesses across the state were pummeled. (Justin Yurkanin, The Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Volusia County seemed hardest hit in Central Florida, though Lake, Osceola and Sumter counties also were slammed by the fast-moving storm. On the leading edge of a cold front, the deluge trampled the region with rain and high winds that knocked down trees and power lines and damaged dozens of homes.
In Volusia, a twister walloped four DeLand-area mobile-home parks -- damaging 100 to 200 homes -- then went on to clobber a Daytona Beach apartment complex, where 200 people were evacuated. Two people were critically injured and five others received minor injuries because of the storm, said EVAC Ambulance spokesman Mark O'Keefe.
"I've heard the damage is widespread and pretty significant," said Volusia County Fire Services spokeswoman Shelley Szafraniec. Search-and-rescue teams were expected to work throughout the night.
About 50 of 65 airplanes at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach were damaged when heavy winds threw them against buildings, snapped off wings or caused them to overturn, according to school spokesman Jim Hampton.
Roads were closed in both the DeLand and Daytona Beach areas because of downed power lines and storm debris.
National Weather Service forecasters in Melbourne said they had been expecting the El Nino-influenced deluge. Winds were clocked in some areas at tropical-storm speeds.
"The computer models have been advertising this storm for quite a while," meteorologist Bart Hagemeyer said.
For some Central Floridians, however, the weather was like an unannounced holiday guest who arrives just in time to disrupt dinner.
Photo: Jonathan White (left) and his roomate Kyle Webb (2nd from left, black shirt) survey the storm damage with other residents to the Sutton Place apartments on Nova Rd on Monday evening, December 25, 2006. The apartments were heavily damaged and are currently evacuated to residents and parts of Nova Rd are also closed to traffic. Webb and White were both sleeping when the storm hit around noon and quickly had to get up and evacuate the building. Both were unhurt and will stay with family in the area until they decide what to do. (Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel)
Carol Izzo of DeLand had just finished taking the Christmas turkey out of the oven when two trees toppled in her yard on North Clara Avenue, near Mercers Fernery Road, hitting her neighbor's home.
"I heard the wind, and it was beating against the front windows and the door. It was like a hurricane," Izzo said. "This has never happened before. . . . We are lucky the house is fine. We all have our lives."
Residents without power, as well as those from the damaged mobile-home parks -- Orangewood, Fernwood, Meadowlea Estates and Rosewood -- were being sheltered at Liberty Independent Baptist Church, 1365 W. Plymouth Ave. Another had been opened at Daytona City Church, 211 Bay St., to house residents with damaged homes and evacuated from Sutton Place apartments.
The storm also dropped trees in Lake County and snapped branches that littered the roadways like tossed Christmas wrappings.
In Leesburg, about a dozen homes and mobile homes were damaged, said Lake County sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Christie Mysinger. The brunt of the damage was confined to broken carports and screened porches, but one home in Leesburg near U.S. Highway 441 lost its roof.
There were no reports of injuries in Lake.
Photo: Yisell Hernandez, 9, of DeLand digs into a meal provided by Myra Durfee, of Pawtucket, R.I. after a storm tore through DeLand impacting 100-200 homes off of Hwy 17 and 11 on Christmas Day, Monday, December 25, 2006. Hernandez and her family were in their home in Fernwood Estates when the storm hit. Residents were put up in an emergency shelter at Liberty Baptist Church. Myra Durfee, saw residents at Brandywine Shopping Village when she went to pick up at ice for her family and decided to bring her leftover Christmas dinner to share with displaced residents."Okay guys," Durfee told her relatives when she got home, "the turkey sandwiches are gone for the year. We packed our dinner and brought it down." (Sara A. Fajardo, Orlando Sentinel)
And in Osceola, nearly 2,200 residents lost power briefly when heavy rain and gusty winds took out three electrical feeders, said Kissimmee Utility Authority spokesman Chris Gent.
At least three homes were destroyed elsewhere in Florida -- two in Columbia County and one in Pasco -- and dozens more were damaged from what weather-service officials suspect was a tornado. Several people also were hospitalized with minor injuries.
"It's amazing we don't have serious injuries or deaths," Columbia County sheriff's spokeswoman Laurie Windham said. "We are incredibly blessed today."
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service reported 5.58 inches of rainfall at the Tallahassee Regional Airport. That's the most rain reported on Christmas Day since 1897.
Wilbert Hernandez, who lives at the Fernwood Estates mobile-home park in DeLand, had never seen anything like the storm.
Photo: Nicole Hernandez, 3, of DeLand is given a glass of soda from Myra Durfee, of Pawtucket, R.I. after a storm tore through DeLand impacting 100-200 homes off of Hwy 17 and 11 on Christmas Day, Monday, December 25, 2006. Hernandez and her family were in their home in Fernwood Estates when the storm hit. Residents were put up in an emergency shelter at Liberty Baptist Church. Myra Durfee, saw residents at Brandywine Shopping Village when she went to pick up at ice for her family and decided to bring her leftover Christmas dinner to share with displaced residents."Okay guys," Durfee told her relatives when she got home, "the turkey sandwiches are gone for the year. We packed our dinner and brought it down." (Sara A. Fajardo, Orlando Sentinel)
He was online, looking for storm information, when a tornado roared through his neighborhood.
"It seemed like a canoe in the ocean for like 10 to 15 seconds of terror. It was unforgettable for me," Hernandez said in Spanish. He spent those seconds hugging his wife and three daughters close, then went outside to survey the damage.
"You couldn't see anything, just pure trash," Hernandez said. "It's something indescribable. I can't tell you how I felt."
The Hernandez family sought help at the Brandywine Shopping Village, where an aid station had been set up.
Myra Durfee, a visitor from Rhode Island, arrived at Brandywine in search of ice. When she saw all the displaced people milling about the parking lot, she knew she needed to help.
Back at the house where she was staying, Durfee said, she commandeered the dinner leftovers, saying, "OK, guys, the turkey sandwiches are gone for the year."
"And we packed up the food and brought it down," Durfee said. "This is the Christmas I'll always remember."
Rich McKay of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also was used. Erin Ailworth can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5507. Sara A. Fajardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-479-1330