JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The National Weather Service confirmed that the damage to rural structures in southwest Baker County on Monday was caused by an EF-0 tornado, and the NWS assessment team has moved on to inspect tree and structural damage in Arlington and Jacksonville Beach.
Meteorologists said the twister that touched down in Sanderson was very small -- only about a tenth of a mile wide and had wind speeds of between 65 and 75 mph and stayed on the ground between Boyce and Steed roads -- between one-quarter and one-half mile.
"We had a very convergent path of damage of trees, broken branches, some structures broken as well," said NWS investigator Scott Cordero. "So it was on this path which was traveling at 65 to 70 mph."
Locals said they did hear what sounded like a freight train as the wind and rain pushed through about 1 p.m.
Melvin Bailey found himself in the path of the destructive winds, which uprooted and toppled trees and threw them toward his mobile home.
Bailey said he and members of his family received tornado alerts on their smartphones and immediately ran for shelter while trying to save the family pets.
"We took cover, put all the dogs in the house," Bailey said. "The pigs, they had shelter, but my dogs, (we) had to take them to the house. We've got too much money invested in them."
The family said one dog was struck by lightning and died in the front yard before they could get her inside.
"My friend, if he would have gotten to her, it would have been 30 seconds, it would have been her," said Judy Bailey said.
The NWS said EF-0 don't typically cause an incredible amount of damage, and that people are generally safe if they can take shelter away from windows.