JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several homes on Jacksonville’s Northside were left with damage to clean up after severe storms ripped through Wednesday morning, uprooting trees, knocking down fence posts and damaging buildings.
Calvin Williams’ sunroom in the Biscayne Downs subdivision was destroyed, and part of his roof landed on the other side of his house at least two yards away.
Williams, who was getting ready to leave his house when the storm passed through, said he’s grateful no one was hurt.
“I was sitting in my car on my way to work and I just saw stuff begin to fly,” Williams said, describing the brief but powerful storm with winds so strong they lifted his car. “I was just on two wheels on the driver’s side. The entire passenger’s side lifted up and then it dropped.”
Williams said it sounded like a train and he’s never been through anything like it.
The National Weather Service ruled the damage came from straight line winds because they didn’t see any evidence of rotation on radar with the storm and no pictures of the damage led them to believe it was a tornado.
Tornado or not, it was a scary 40 seconds or so for Williams and his neighbor, who described a similar experience.
“The wind force was tremendous. It lifted my car off the ground,” Joshua Scott said. “I braced myself, said a slight prayer and it was gone. It was quick but very powerful. It's something you can't prepare for.”
Gwendolyn Coleman was inside her home on Sarasota Lane in the subdivision when strong winds and heavy rain caused a massive tree to snap and then topple onto her house. She said she heard a loud noise but didn’t know what it was at first.
“All of a sudden I heard this noise. This loud noise of wind blowing, so much so that I thought, ‘Oh, my God, is the wind going to blow down my house?’” Coleman said. “You could feel the wind on the house, and I knew something was happening but not that. I had no idea it was a tree falling on my home."
Coleman tried opening the door, only to realize part of the tree was blocking the front entrance. Despite what happened, her home held up and so did the roof.
“I just consider it a blessing from God that He was there for me when I needed Him to be there for me," Coleman said.
While News4Jax was on scene, tree trimmer Tony Wynn was cutting parts of the tree from Coleman’s roof, but at one point, he slipped and fell off. He was able to grab a limb as he was going down and the rest of the fallen tree helped to break his fall.
“I knew I had it," said Wynn, who was OK and was all smiles. "I wasn’t scared. For about one second, I knew everything was right here. So, the whole tree is right on the house, so basically it was a buffer.”
As for Coleman, she said her insurance agent will have someone inspect the roof to make sure there is no structural damage.
The powerful winds left debris behind in several yards, tossed a fence across the street and knocked over large trees. But fortunately, neighbors said, no one was hurt.
A viewer on Black Hammock Island sent News4Jax a video, capturing loud winds that toppled trash cans.
In Columbia County, at least three homes were damaged by severe storms in Lake City, including a mobile home where a tree came crashing down.
Nearby, a tree also fell, landing on Antonio Harris’ home with his family inside.
“About three o’clock this morning, the wind started blowing real, real hard,” Harris said. “It was like a train was coming, and then the next thing I know something hit the house.”
In the Oceanway area near Starratt and Boney roads, another viewer reported major damage after hearing wind “like she’d never heard before.” She said she got in a hallway and trees were bent over in the backyard with debris flying around.
A large tree toppled into the street.
Viewer captures waterspout video
As reports of damage rolled in Wednesday morning, a viewer shared a video with News4Jax of a waterspout near Amelia Island.
Gary Palmer said the funnel cloud started over Black Hammock Island, moved across to Little Talbot Island and then continued southeast until it came ashore at a golf club in the Amelia Island Plantation area.
“When we first saw it, it was really big,” Palmer said. “It was really something to see because you could see it picking the water up and the debris was changing colors.”
He said the spout lasted several minutes, and by the time he was able to get video, it had gotten smaller. In the video, he said, the spout was about ¼-mile to ½-mile away from his home. His boat could be seen at the end of a dock in the video, and he said the spout was near the A1A bridge from Amelia Island to Talbot Island.
Meteorologist Richard Nunn pointed out the lack of movement in the trees and grasses closest to Palmer’s home, explaining that the waterspout forms as the thunderstorm moves offshore and loses friction enough to create rotation and pick up speed.
Nunn explained as he watched the video that what our eyes see is not the wind but the water and possibly other debris being sucked up and flung out by the funnel.