Northeast Florida dodges bullet as storm moves offshore

Residents urged to batten down as severe storm moved through

By News4Jax.com Staff, Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Southeast United States' most severe winter storms in decades took more than 20 lives over the weekend, but caused only superficial damage as they passed through Northeast Florida on Sunday afternoon and evening.

While the entire WJXT viewing area was under a tornado warning for more most of the day and tornado and thunderstorm warnings went up at least briefly in most area counties, there were only two reported injuries and isolated reports of trees and power lines down. 

The impressive wall of storms that had menaced Georgia and Florida moved through the greater Jacksonville area between 6 and 7 p.m. and was offshore by 7:45 p.m., with the final scare being radar-indicated tornadoes near World Golf Village and Palm Coast.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said there were no reports of any damage or injuries. The National Weather Service reported one person injured in Columbia County when a tree fell on her home.

Jacksonville sees hail, wind; but nothing severe

Two severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for Duval County between 3:40 and 4:30 p.m., and one for northwestern St. Johns County about the same time. A severe thunderstorm that moved through East Arlington and San Pablo about 1:30 p.m. dropped dime-size hail and high winds left a trail of debris.

City leaders met at Duval County's Emergency Operations Center, but no activation was needed.

One woman was hospitalized for anxiety after a tree fell on her home off Old Kings Road in Northwest Jacksonville.

After the storm passed, Mayor Lenny Curry went on Twitter to thank the city employees for being prepared, Gov. Rick Scott for his support and the media for keeping residents informed. He then offered "prayers for those around us that suffered loss from these storms."

David Chernitsky captured this picture as the storm passed World Golf Village

St. Johns County monitored storm

St. Augustine activated its Emergency Operation Center Sunday due to the impending weather. St. Johns County emergency managers said their EOC was not activated, but managers urged people to make sure they are in a safe interior room of a sturdy home.

The impending storm and some passing rain in the afternoon didn't stop people from exploring the Oldest City, but did send others looking for shelter.

"Rain; it's cold; it's windy and it's not good for the baby," said Kiani Batista, who was visiting from Miami with her husband and 1-year-old. "So we would just rather get in so we don't get sick; so none of us get sick."

Clay County urged preparedness

Emergency Management partially activated its EOC in Green Cove Springs, ready to dispatched crews to impacted areas as soon as the storm passes, but there were no reports of damage or injuries. 

"Stay inside, be vigilant. If you see uprooted trees, trees on homes or in roadways, damage to power lines or property, call the EOC," John Ward, Clay County's emergency manager, said earlier in the day. "Call 911 if there are fatalities or injuries."

Baker County opened 2 shelters

Baker County opened the area's first emergency shelters at Macclenny Elementary (general needs) and Ed Fraser Hospital (special needs). With no reports of damage in the county, it wasn't know if anyone utilized them.

Bradford County shelter closes

The Madison Street Baptist Church opened as a shelter Sunday afternoon, but closed just after 7 p.m. when the storm passed with no significant local damage.

Alachua County quiet

Sheriff's Office said other than a small brush fire started by a downed power line, no significant problems have been reported. At one point early Sunday evening, more than 2,000 customers had lost power.

Power companies prepared for storm's aftermath

Power officials expect power outages and downed power lines as the storms move through the area. 

JEA customers can keep track of power outages online. To report an outage, call 904-665-6000, or text OUT to MyJEA (69532). 

Florida Power and Light said they are fully prepared for potential power outages resulting from the storm. A spokesperson with FPL said they brought in additional restoration crews to help restore power outages as quickly as possible. 

To report downed power lines and damaged equipment, call 1-800-4-outage. 

Power outages can be tracked online at www.fpl.com/powertracker. The website updates every 15 minutes. 

Power officials warn residents to avoid downed power lines and standing water after the storm passed. 

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