NWS: EF1 tornado touched down in Palm Coast

Winds up to 104 mph destroyed 7 homes, damages 164 others

PALM COAST, Fla. – After accessing damage to dozens of homes in northern Flagler County, meteorologists with the National Weather Service believe an EF1 tornado with wind speeds reaching 104 mph touched down in Palm Coast on Saturday night.

When assessment teams completed their damage assessments Sunday, they reported that 171 houses were affected:

  • 7 houses destroyed
  • 22 houses with moderate damage
  • 142 houses partially damaged

The value of the damage is estimated at $5,355,611.

Early Sunday, 51 homes were still without power and the Red Cross was setting up at Palm Coast city offices to assist anyone who needs help.

LISTEN:  911 calls report tornado

Neighbors have been flooding the streets, checking out the damage from the storm. Some who were lucky enough to have minor damage took the time to help others clean up tree limbs and other debris from their yard.

Jim Barilka was home at the time and says he saw the tornado coming straight toward him.

"I know this sounds crazy, but I stood in front of the house and I said, 'Oh no, you don't. In Jesus' name, you will not touch these houses. You will not touch my house, you will not touch my neighbors' houses. You will do no damage, you will take no human life,'" Barilka said.

City officials said the tornado was 25-75 yards wide. How long it was on the ground has yet to be determined.

"That's what's left of our pool and our backyard and we just have a couple tears in the screen," said Kiplin McGann, whose home and backyard were badly damaged.

Neighbors are now focusing their efforts on getting their homes back to normal.

McGann says his entire roof will need to be replaced, and he says he's looking for ways to help cover the costs.

"I work for Home Depot, so they have a fund there," McGann said. "I'm going to see where they can pitch in, and we go from there."

"Yeah, the wind was really whipping and I stood over by my front door and everything just started to fly, everything was vertical flying," said John O'Brien.

Michael Smith says what struck him was how his neighbors came together to help.

"I'm here for them just like they were here for me," Smith said. "Every neighbor on this block came to our house to make sure we was alright."

One of the hardest hit areas in Palm Coast is the Bayside neighborhood also known as the B section. In one home an elderly man was trapped inside his house when the roof was ripped from his home. Rescue crews found him in the yard unharmed.

Not everyone was home during the storm. Tom Musto is still in shock from what he saw when he pulled into his neighborhood Saturday night.

"We were actually about three blocks down the road and it all started with a big bang, and we started hearing sirens and we're like, 'okay, it's pretty bad somewhere,' and then we came up Belle Terre and saw cops everywhere and we turned the corner and saw my big tree on the house. Yeah, it was pretty emotional," Musto said.

Musto went to the store at 6 a.m. Sunday to buy a chainsaw. He's not just cleaning up his yard, but surrounding yards as well.

"Everybody has been coming by -- 'do you need food help pulling the limbs?' -- So it's kind of cool that something like this bad happened is bringing everyone together," Musto said.

Others thought of Florida as a safe place this time of year. Joy Scanlon is a Connecticut native in town visiting her daughter.

"I can't describe, it's frightening, scared to death, and then of course at three o'clock this morning, there was another one. I went in the closet, I was petrified," Scanlon said.

The people at Saturday night's Christmas parade were caught off guard when the weather alerts came through during the parade and the city was evacuated them from the streets.

LeAnn Johnston was at the parade with her two young children when they got evacuated.

"It got crazy real quickly," Johnston said. "Everybody was in a hurry and we thought to ourselves, 'what are we going to do? We can't go anywhere.'"

"We were about halfway through our holiday parade when we got the call from the fire department saying severe weather was on the way and to go ahead and cancel it, so we did," said Cindi Lane, city official of Palm Coast. "We made an announcement over the PA system that people should leave the parade and go to safe locations."

Chief Beable said that at 6:58 p.m. when Palm Coast city officials decided to evacuated the parade, and Flagler County Emergency Management crews issued a code red.

At 7 p.m. officials received the first call about wind damage in the Indian Trails neighborhood. At 7:02 p.m., reports came in about downed power lines and at least one roof ripped off a home on Bannerwood Lane at Bayside Drive. At 7:06 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for northern Flagler County. At 7:18 p.m., that warning was cancelled.

There were no reports of any injuries.

The city estimates it will take about a week for the B section neighborhood to get completely cleaned up.

Through it all, Palm Coast residents know the job they have ahead of them, but say no matter what, they're pushing through.

"We're standing strong. We're not going to bow or bend under natural disaster. We're going to overcome it."

A NWS meteorologist reported that roofing material and other debris was lodged into the tops of trees. Other large pine trees had the tops ripped out of them. About 6,000 people were without power Saturday night.

City managers say as people pick up the pieces, there's a few things they need to be aware of when choosing the right contractor. Channel 4 spoke with local insurance agent, Matt Carlucci.

"The second thing is insurance companies all have their own adjusters, but there's another adjuster called an independent adjuster and sometimes they'll try to come in and start handling a claim before the insurance company adjuster gets there," Carlucci said.

Palm Coast authorities are asking that everyone double check contractors' licenses, before they hire one to make sure they don't get scammed.

The Flagler County Building Department can also verify the license. For a list of licensed contractors click HERE or call 386-986-3780. The Building Department  says it's happy to search their database and the state to check for active licenses for you.

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