Damage, power outages in wake of Christmas Eve storms

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A line of strong storms that moved quickly across Northeast Florida on Christmas Eve left power outages and downed trees in its wake.

Not long after the thunderstorms began to move into inland areas, from Waycross to Lake City around 4 p.m., severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for Clinch and Columbia counties.

As the rain pushed through, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam St. Johns, Camden and Glynn were under severe thunderstorm warnings until 7:30 p.m.

News4Jax started receiving reports of damage as soon as the dust settled.

In Jacksonville’s Dinsmore neighborhood, the winds were strong enough to destroy the back patio of a home and knock over a nearby fence. News4Jax found three homes in the Waterbrook Falls subdivision that had damage.

Neighbors said the storm ripped through in just a matter of minutes.

“It was like a nightmare. I’ve never seen anything like that. I just thank God me and the children were OK,” said Deborah Dempsey, who lives in the neighborhood.

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Damage from storm in Dinsmore neighborhood.

Dempsey said the storm rolled through while she was making dinner for the family. In addition to the damage to her patio, her roof was torn.

“We heard this whistling sound and after awhile glass and everything went to splattering and water came up through here and it just tore up everything out there,” she said. “We didn’t know if it was over or what, because everything happened so fast.”

Next door, the winds lifted the top of a chimney off. Another home had a large tree fall in the backyard.

Dempsey said she’s grateful no one was hurt.

There were reports of fallen trees and branches that were blocking roads in Mandarin.

Hood Road was blocked in both directions one mile east of Old St. Augustine Road after a large tree fell and a downed powerline on Claire Lane stopped traffic.

A tree landed on a home in the Nature’s Walk subdivision:

Rick Blyar, the homeowner, said he was inside when the storm blew through.

“It sounded like a tornado,” he said. “So, I headed for a bathtub. Then it seemed to die down. I came out and the same time I was coming out, my neighbors were coming out to find out what was going on and we saw that.”

Blyar said he never heard the tree fall onto the house because the winds were so loud. He said the damage was minimal because the tree landing on a support beam.

Nearby, a large tree fell onto an RV. Police said no one was home when it fell.

Also in Mandarin, a power outage didn’t stop the Mandarin Presbyterian Church from holding its Christmas Eve Service. Take a look:

In Lake City, Jerry Norenberg said he was getting ready to eat food with his roommates when a tree came crashing through their home.

Norenberg said they have to leave immediately.

“I took a step out of the kitchen and the next thing you know it sounded like a car came through the house,” he said. “It shook me and I turned back around and I noticed we had a tree sticking through the house.

Photo shared by Jerry N.

Norenberg said they are trying to salvage what they can. He plans to stay with friends.

Power outages affected thousands of homes. At 9:20 p.m., JEA showed 677 people without power. Clay Electric showed 13,505 people without power. Florida Power and Light showed 1,428 outages.

OUTAGE MAPS | JEA | FPL | Clay Electric

One viewer sent in a photo of a light that fell in a parking lot of a shopping center near Baymeadows and Interstate 295.

Fallen light pole in Jacksonville shopping center parking lot. (Courtesy Andrew Sanfilippo)

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