81ºF

Tornado damages at least 40 homes in Yulee

National Weather Service says EF-1 twister was on gound for 4.25 miles

YULEE, Fla. – The EF-1 tornado with winds between 90-100 mph that tore through Nassau County on Thursday afternoon ripped down hundreds of trees and damaged at least 40 homes, according to emergency management officials.

An NWS assessment team said the twister was about 200 yards wide and was on the ground for 4.25 miles.

"There is actually a tree on top of my house," Sydney Price said. "That is typically not there. We look at the Suburban and said, 'Oh, gosh, we don't need that car anyway.'"

Chain saws were working overtime clearing trees on cars and roofs, and homeowners were calling their insurance companies.

"We lost our camper that we never slept in," Baker said. "It literally picked up a tree from the ground,  the oak tree, and send it six foot away and took the camper and landed on top of it."

The damage from the storm included an overturned tractor-trailer that appeared to have damaged vehicles on State Road 200 in Yulee, just west of Chester Road. No one was injured in the crash, but the blocked highway slowed traffic, including responding emergency vehicles.

Jim Baker said this wasn't the first time a tornado that hit his home.

"I’ve got a 5-by-5 hole in the roof and some structural damage on the inside," Marc Crutchfield said. "It was extremely loud.  Rain was blowing completely horizontally. Everything completely green outside. If you’ve ever been through a tornado, you knew it was."

The bedroom window of Frankie Hayes's home was broken by a tree limb and a horse trailer in his yard was smashed by a falling tree.

Nearby, Malloria Bunton and her mother were in their home trying to hold their French doors closed against the high winds. They knew if they flew open and the air got in, the pressure might lift the roof off the house.

"We were just trying to batten down the hatches," Bunton said.

Those winds were powerful enough to flip several trailers onto their sides at RDL Logistics, a trucking company in Nassau County.

VIDEO: Drone flies over storm damage

Nassau County Emergency Management logged hundreds of reports of trees down and other damage.

"One moment the sun was shining and the next it was just, boom, blew the patio furniture off in the yard," said Paul James. "When you think about those folks in Alabama and Oklahoma that could lose their whole home. A tree leaning against (the house) putting a hole (in the roof). My wife could’ve been gone. We’re blessed, so I’m grateful for that."

Red Cross volunteers were dispatched to the area and helped at least one family with a place to live. They were back in the damaged neighborhoods Friday to distribute water, snacks and clean-up kits.

The National Weather Service in Jacksonville issued a tornado warning just before 2 p.m. for Nassau County and Camden County after radar detected a severe thunderstorm near Yulee capable of producing a tornado. The warning was canceled by 2:12 p.m.

 


About the Authors: