Slow-moving squalls spark funnel cloud, flooding

By Alicia Booth - Reporter/anchor

FRUIT COVE, Fla. - People ducked for cover Thursday as rounds of storms moved through the area -- one of which spawned a water spout and prompted flood warnings in southeast Duval and northern St. Johns counties.

Residents on both sides of the St. Johns River spotted a water spout moving north of Green Cove Springs about 11:40 a.m.

"It just kept getting bigger and bigger and it started approaching our dock, and that's when I started getting scared," said Stacey Pulido of Orangedale.

Students at Fruit Cove Middle School were moved to the gym during the tornado warning.

Student Dylan Smith said he was afraid, but also curious.

"I've never seen one in real life, but I've heard it's really scary," Dylan said.

At 12:20 a.m. Thursday, Doppler radar indicated heavy, slow-moving thunderstorms moving along the Interstate 95 corridor north near World Golf Village.

About the same time a tornado warning was briefly issued after a possible water spout off the coast of Ponte Vedra Beach, but that was cancelled within 15 minutes.

While no tornado  damage was reported, an early morning lightning strike is blamed for a water main break in a Julington Creek Plantation community.

Experts said lightning hit a tree and traveled into the ground and ruptured a water pipe. While this left the street and some yards flooded, it left about 20 customers with no water coming out of their faucets.  The JEA restored water service late in the afternoon, although crews were still working in the neighborhood.

Channel 4 chief meteorologist John Gaughan says rainfall amounts from Thursday's storms varied from about 1 inch at Jacksonville Beach to nearly 4 inches in northwest St. Johns County.

"It appears the onshore pattern will abate for Friday, but this weekend, winds shift to blowing onshore and so the rains will return," Gaughan said. "Saturday, will be more typical afternoon and evening storms/rains, but by Sunday, winds will be directly onshore and as such these intense (localized) heavy coastal rains return."

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