Deadly April storms leave trail of damage across Florida

Metro Jacksonville damage limited to fallen trees, downed power lines

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Brittany Muller - Reporter, Zachery Lashway - Reporter/anchor, Erik Avanier - Reporter

A line of severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes barreled across North Florida on Friday, leaving at least one child dead and a second injured near Tallahassee.

This was the same system that was blamed for the deaths a day earlier of three people in Mississippi and a woman in Alabama.

An 8-year-old girl was killed and a 12-year-old boy was injured when a massive oak tree fell through their mobile home in Woodville about 8 a.m. Friday. The Leon County Sheriff's Office said a 12-year-old boy had minor injuries.

Their father and two other children were unhurt, but a GoFundMe post set up for the family said that the home was demolished. The Leon County school system said it will have counselors on hand Monday morning for those who knew the second grader. 

Columbia County firefighters responded to a tree on a home there, but no injuries were reported.

A large tree fell on a horse in Alachua County, authorities said. Alachua County Fire Rescue worked to remove large limbs to rescue the animal. When crews left, they said the horse was standing and waiting to be evaluated by a veterinarian.  

Most people's brush with the storm was limited to downed trees, limbs, power lines and high winds.

Tammie Kane's car, parked near the intersection of King Street and Riverside Avenue, was damaged when a tree fell on it.

"It came on fast. It started raining and it was pretty windy and then, boom, right after that the tree fell," she said. "Cars can be fixed and replaced and people can’t."

SLIDESHOW: Photos of storms passing, damage left behind

Miles away, a Volkswagen Jetta was destroyed when a tree fell. The homeowner said it was a gust of wind that sounded like a freight train that caused the tree to come down on DuPaul Drive at Broward Road.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office reported roads underwater and with trees, power lines and debris down. They urge people to report serious damage to the authorities and drive with extra care.

Baker County Fire-Rescue reported that two people were injured when an SUV went off a slick road and hit a tree in Glen St. Mary, near the Florida-Georgia border. 

At the peak of the storm crossing North Central Florida, Clay Electric was dealing with more than 15,000 power outages in Alachua, Baker, Clay, Columbia and Union counties. JEA reported more than 7,000 customers out during the noon hour, but that number dropped all afternoon. Florida Power and Light reported only isolated outages scattered across its north Florida coverage area.

Downed power lines caused problems beyond the outages. Beauclerc Road and neighboring Ponder Road were blocked by police after live electric lines fell across the streets.

In Northwest Jacksonville, heavy rain and high winds knocked down a tree, which took out a power line, at the corner of West Ninth Street and Blue Avenue. The tree scraped the front of a house and came within inches of falling onto the home, where a woman and her 3-year-old daughter were inside. 

Tonya McIntosh, the woman's relative, told News4Jax that firefighters had to get the woman and the 3-year-old safely out of the home because when the tree, which was on the next-door neighbor's property, fell, it pulled down a live power line that was blocking the front door.

"When I did get her on the phone, she was obviously shook up, which shook me up," McIntosh said.

The relative said neither the woman nor the child was injured. The next-door neighbor said he's going to let his insurance take care of everything. 

A Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville to Jacksonville was reported to have been struck by lightning before landing safely just before 11 a.m. The flight was scheduled to continue on to Fort Lauderdale but an airline spokeswoman told News4Jax the plane was taken out of service for a maintenance review.

A passenger on the plane said they weren't told about a lightning hit. The only thing he noticed on the approach to JAX was excess turbulence.

About a dozen other flights to and from Jacksonville were either canceled or delayed Friday due to weather, which is bad across a wide swath of the eastern United States.

Florida State University and Florida A&M, both in Tallahassee, didn't open until noon Friday, when the heavy weather had passed. Santa Fe College in Gainesville closed at midday, asking all students and staff to shelter in place. NAS Jacksonville sent nonessential employees home at 1 p.m.

The threat shifted farther east Friday afternoon, where tornado warnings covered parts of northeast Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF0 tornado touched down in Camden County, Georgia. The national Storm Prediction Center said 9.7 million people were at moderate risk for severe weather.