Tornado damaged homes, injured 2 in Starke on Christmas Eve

NWS says weak EF1 tornado spawned strong cold front

Possible tornado damaged homes, injured 2 in Starke on Christmas Eve
Possible tornado damaged homes, injured 2 in Starke on Christmas Eve

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thunderstorms that swept through Northeast Florida on Christmas Eve spawned a tornado in Starke that left two people injured, according to the National Weather Service Jacksonville.

Crews surveyed the damage left in Bradford County in the wake of the strong storms and said it’s consistent with a tornado with maximum winds of 105 mph, classifying it an EF1.

The NWS said the tornado developed just after 6 p.m. and left a damage path of about 4.13 miles.

The tornado caused damage to trees, fences, and roofs on manufactured homes along its 4-mile path, NWS said. Four people were displaced and two people were taken to the hospital as a precaution but were later released.

Ernest Etheridge said despite the wet ground, he and his wife spent the day stacking and piling the tree limbs that he says were spread across his front yard.

“It just shook the house,” he said. “You could hear it. And I was just hollering for my wife to get down on the floor because I thought it was fixing to just turn the whole thing over.”

Etheridge said for about seven seconds, his house was shaking.

He had siding ripped out in parts of the house and some roof damage, but is happy it wasn’t worse.

“It just kind of went over the house and then came over this way,” he said. “You see we had a carport from right here back and had a shed right here that was close in and it’s all back there just spread all over the yard.”

The tornado was part of a squall line ahead of a strong cold front that moved across southeast Georgia and northeast Florida in the afternoon and evening hours of Christmas Eve.

News4Jax saw damage along Highway 100 near Starke, where trees fell onto two homes and a car. A roof appeared to have caved in at one of the homes.

According to Bradford County officials, people who were living in those homes are now receiving assistance from the American Red Cross.

Hundreds of Northeast Florida families woke up without power on Christmas Day. Utility crews were assessing damage and working to restore power to homes and businesses affected by outages scattered throughout Jacksonville and its neighboring counties.

JEA had at least 8,600 customers lose power at some point overnight, while Clay Electric had a spike in power outages around 7 p.m. Thursday, and around 23,000 of its customers across its service area were, at one time, in the dark.

About the Authors: