Four Christmas Day tornadoes damaged hundreds of Florida homes, with one flipping airplanes at a flight school and tearing the roofs off three apartment buildings, accoording to officials.
Gov. Jeb Bush late Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Columbia, Pasco, Lake and Volusia counties, which were hardest hit by the storm.
One confirmed tornado hit the Daytona Beach area, where high winds tore portions of the roof from three apartment buildings and caused extensive damage to many of their 240 units. It was an F-2 tornado, which has winds of 113 mph to 157 mph. Daytona Beach reported 20 police vehicles were destroyed.
The wind also hurled an airplane through a building wall at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, causing a fire. About 50 other planes at the university were also damaged by winds that snapped off their wings and caused them to overturn.
Estelle Hunter, 25, left five minutes before the winds uprooted a tree and slammed it through the roof of her home in the area. She tried to salvage some of her possessions from the rubble.
“It’s all gone,” she said. “All of my baby’s Christmas presents are under water.”
Injuries reported in the storms were relatively minimal, which authorities called remarkable.
“It’s near miraculous that no one was killed,” said Bart Hagemeyer, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Melbourne.
More than 200 homes in a number of mobile home parks were damaged west of Daytona Beach around DeLand, where another F-2 tornado was confirmed, the Volusia County Property Appraiser’s Office said.
A third tornado damaged about 80 homes in Pasco County north of Tampa, largely at the Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club. An F-0, bringing winds of 70 miles per hour, was confirmed in Lake County, near Leesburg.
Elaine Mandela was among those forced from their home in Pasco County. She spent Monday night with friends, but said she was unsure what she would do now.
“I have no idea,” she said. “I’m not sure it has hit me yet.”
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