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Tornado on ground for nearly 30 minutes in Flagler County

Cyclone traveled almost 20 miles before dawn Saturday, leaving half-mile wide swath of damage

People living in Flagler County are picking up the pieces of their homes after a tornado ripped through.

The National Weather Service on Saturday classified the storm as an EF-1 tornado.

The damage ranged from south of Bunnell to the Gamble Rogers area of Flagler Beach.

The damage in Korona was devastating.

One man had pretty extensive damage to his home, and there were several uprooted trees and large pieces coming off the ventilation system.

Despite the damage, he and his dogs weren’t hurt.

Troy Robertson no longer has a roof.

“(I) stayed in this house for three hurricanes and lost a few shingles -- (in) 15 seconds, this is what a tornado could do,” he said.

Robertson said he was asleep in his bed when the storm came rolling in.

He and his dogs took shelter in the shower, then when he noticed the roof was caving in, he came outside and found the roof was missing and the trees were down, he said.

When asked what was going through his mind, Robertson said, "Time to get out of here. This is not good.”

Andrew Parsons was in town visiting Roberston. He rode out the EF-1 tornado in his van.

“It sounded like a bomb went off outside when it hit the house,” he said. "All of that stuff came this way, blew out this window, like an explosive all over me -- then rocked the van up and then it sat back down.”

Robertson said his house is a total loss.

“There’s nothing left,” he said. "I’ve lost everything inside. (The) ceilings are all down (and my) clothes are all ruined. All I’ve got is on my back and two pairs of jeans I salvaged. That is it right now.”

Despite it all, Robertson told reporters that his house can be replaced. He just feels lucky to be alive.

The Red Cross will assist him. Robertson’s friends were outside helping out Saturday night, as well.

The NWS in Jacksonville had issued tornado warnings for parts of Putnam and St. Johns counties after the radar detected a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado. NWS officials said the tornado -- with winds of 110 mph -- touched down about 5:14 a.m. and was on the ground in Flagler County for 19.66 miles, stretching from 11 miles southwest of Bunnell to 1 mile south of Flagler Beach. The damage path was about a half-mile wide.

NWS said the long-lived tornado tracked east-northeast across Korona from near Haw Creek Preserve until it exited offshore about 5:40 a.m.

Flagler County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord started making assessments at daybreak.

The county released drone video of the damage:

Other homes reported damage on Creek Bluff Run off John Anderson Highway. Minor to moderate damage was confirmed on Plantation Oak, Deer Run, Falling Waters, and Fairchild Oaks.

Multiple damages within Flagler Beach have been reported, and are pending assessment.

A fence is knocked down behind White Eagle in Korona after a possible tornado in Flagler County.
A fence is knocked down behind White Eagle in Korona after a possible tornado in Flagler County.

Storm damage can be reported here, and this link is available on the Flagler County homepage, as well.

The Flagler Beach Police Department also posted video of some damage involving an overturned camper at Gamble Rogers State Park. No injuries have been reported.

⚠️🌪⚠️ - A tornado touched down on the south side of Flagler Beach this morning at approximately 5:45 a.m. There have been no reported injuries and a camper was overturned in Gamble Rogers State Park. SRA1A is open and there was no damage to the Pier or any Dune Walkover. #FlaglerBeach #FlaglerBeachPolice

Posted by Flagler Beach Police Department on Saturday, December 14, 2019

Putnam County damage

The Putnam County Internal Alert System began sending tornado warning notifications just after 4 a.m. for areas near Bardin and Palatka.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook that a possible tornado had touched down in the Interlachen area at about 6:30 a.m., leaving downed power lines and damage to nearby houses.

PCSO asked drivers to be cautious on the roads as a result.

Putnam County Fire Rescue said the county experienced significant winds, leaving multiple power lines down, trees on homes and property damage, mostly in and around Interlachen.

About 150 Clay Electric customers were without power Saturday afternoon.

No roads were closed, but residents were urged to use caution and look out for debris. No injuries were reported.

A spokesman for Putnam County Fire Rescue said the county has gotten lots of positive feedback from the community about how well the alert system worked to warn them early in the morning.

Warnings, alerts

The warnings issued for Northeast Florida urged anyone in the area to seek shelter in an interior room on the bottom floor of a sturdy building and avoid windows.

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Anyone in a mobile home or vehicle was asked to move to the nearest shelter to protect themselves from flying debris.

Heavy rainfall can hide tornadoes, so the best course of action during a tornado warning is to take cover immediately. Do not wait to see or hear a tornado.

The warning was extended through 5:15 a.m. in Putnam County as the storm moved through the areas.

For St. Johns County, the warning was in place through 5:45 a.m., 8 miles from Crescent City in neighboring Putnam County.

Meteorology behind the storms

Two tornadic supercells over St. Johns and Flagler counties. Both originated near I-75 before intensifying near the east coast.
Two tornadic supercells over St. Johns and Flagler counties. Both originated near I-75 before intensifying near the east coast. (wjxt)

Meteorologist Mark Collins said long-lived supercells in Florida that track 20 miles across the ground are relatively uncommon.

He tracked the storms online and on Channel 4 live from near I-75 through and past I-95 until the tornadoes moved offshore.

“This severe set-up we never want to see -- and the timing, late at night, we never want to have," he said.


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