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EF-1 tornado leaves trail of damage in southern St. Johns County

Storm downs trees, power lines near St. Johns-Flagler border

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Preliminary reports show an EF-1 tornado swept through southern St. Johns County Tuesday afternoon, leaving a path of damage, debris, downed trees and power lines, according to the National Weather Service. 

A strong thunderstorm moving through the area prompted a brief tornado warning, during which a low-intensity EF-1 tornado touched down about 2:15 p.m. just east of Interstate 95, near State Road 206, and moved east past U.S. 1, a NWS meteorologist confirmed to News4Jax.

The brunt of the damage was isolated to three locations: a wooded area along U.S. 1 near S.R. 206, a residential area near the intersection of Sea Place and Seacove avenues and a residential neighborhood off Colonial Drive. 

St. Johns County Fire Rescue dispatched units to check on the storm damage in the area.

No injuries were reported and no one was displaced, but many people who live along Sea Place and Seacove avenues came home from work to find they had property damage along with snapped tree limbs and downed power lines in their yards.

IMAGES: EF-1 tornado leaves path of damage in southern St. Johns County

"It looks like this treetop blew off that pine tree way over there. You can see where it broke," said resident Ben Hartwick. "Thankfully, it just ruined my fence that fell down and some trees down and some broken windows. But, overall, the house was OK and everyone in the neighborhood seems to be alright so that's what's most important."

In addition to downed trees and Florida Power and Light lines knocked out, one man's chimney was blown into Hartwick's backyard and another home had some roof damage.

"The winds were just tremendous. It blew right through there, and it blew up here and it blew things toward the front door," said neighbor Donna Cooper. "It took a screen off the pool and all these concrete planters I had -- just gone." 

There was damage to Cooper's roof, backyard and the fence surrounding her pool. She also had a tree uprooted in her front yard.  

"It was scary," Cooper said. "I mean, we had that hurricane last year, and this, today, was nothing like the hurricane last year ... It was much stronger (today)."

The NWS meteorologists looked at the clear path of damage and debris to determine that an EF-1 tornado had hit, saying it was consistent with another path of trees near U.S. 1 that had been cleared during the storm.

Less than a mile away on Colonial Drive, Karen Bradley said she came home from work after the storm to discover her entire fenced-in pool area had been destroyed and a large tree in her backyard had been uprooted. She said she just made repairs to her home after Hurricane Matthew. 

"Not again. Oh no, why us? But the house is good, and as long as the house is good and everybody's safe," Bradley said. "It could have been a lot worse."

The National Weather Service said Tuesday night it's still surveying the area to determine the final path and length of the tornado. 

The Weather Authority Chief Meteorologist John Gaughan believes there should not be any more severe weather in the area before Wednesday afternoon.


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