JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a tornado traveled more than two miles through East Arlington neighborhoods Thursday afternoon, the Red Cross is giving shelter and other assistance to families whose homes were damaged.
Authorities say a severe storm ripped through Jacksonville between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., damaging 15 to 20 homes and numerous cars, but there was only one minor injury.
"It was scary. I've never been through a tornado before," said 10-year-old Conner Peterson, who saw the funnel cloud.
The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-2 tornado, but late Friday revised the maximum wind speed down to 115 mph as it blew by the intersection of Monument and Derringer roads.
Peterson was walking home from a community park with his brother when they saw the sky darken.
"We saw the clouds forming into a circle and then we ran into the bathroom and our mom covered us up with pillows and blankets," he said.
Other people in Arlington told similar stories of hiding in their houses and cars.
"I was on phone with husband and I told him looked like a tornado," Angela Red said. "(I) put the car in park and I got down on the floorboard of car. Looking out I saw pieces of houses and fencing flying over top of my car."
Witnesses said the twister was only on the ground for about a minute.
"I saw the spinning and I could hardly get in (the) door," said Pam Karnbach. "I watched a tree in the front yard go sideways; flag pole in my driveway was across the street."
Trees were down on cars and homes and blocked streets and driveways. Even fences went through some people's bedrooms.
"I'm just happy to be alive. All this can be replaced," said Amanda Harris. "I got my babies and stayed safe. We were in that bathroom for like an hour. Quite scary."
Twenty-four hours later, the cleanup process was overwhelming. Apartments were condemned, and many will be torn down. Some people and their pets are trying to find new homes.
Public insurance adjusters are offering their services at the scene.
"Most people when it comes to an insurance claim, they don't even know that there are people who are licensed and qualified to help them with their claim, so they tend to struggle through the process on their own and it gets to be a very frustrating process and it gets to be a very costly process," said Mark Goldwich, owner of Gold Star Adjusters.
Stuck inside one home was a family's cat, Shadow, now too without a home.
"I can't take her home with me," Jean-Marie Williamson said. "I have two dogs and so I don't know what we're going to do. I guess we're going to have to take her to a shelter."
The weather service reported the storm also dumped between two and four inches of rain on many areas of eastern Duval and Nassau counties, flooding streets and parking lots. Standing water on the Arlington Expressway forced the Mathews Bridge closed during the afternoon rush hour.
Fire officials say lightning may have sparked two house fires. Both were quick extinguished.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says only one person was treated for injuries sustained during the storm.
The storm knocked out electricity to thousands of residents, but the JEA reported the number of outages well under one hundred by Friday morning.
Residents who are still in need of assistance are being asked to call the Red Cross offices at 904-358-8091.
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