Severe weather sparked a pair of tornadoes that ripped through central Florida before dawn Sunday, officials said. A couple was killed and their son and four grandchildren were injured when one of the twisters destroyed their mobile home.
“I’m amazed to see anybody got out of this alive,” said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube during a news conference.
Steube said that the victims of the tornado in Duette were asleep in their mobile home when the tornado struck. Steven Wilson, 58, was killed immediately, while his wife, Kate, died from a heart attack after being taken to a hospital. Their son, also named Steven Wilson, crawled out of the wreckage and helped his four children out of the home. The children are between the ages of 6 and 10.
The younger Wilson and the children are being treated at a hospital. Their injuries aren’t thought to be life threatening.
The National Weather Service in Ruskin, Florida, said a tornado touched down in Duette in Manatee County at 3:45 a.m.
Minutes later, another twister struck near the beach community of Siesta Key in Sarasota County.
Siesta Key is a barrier island known for its pricey condos and wide, gorgeous beaches. On Sunday morning, about 17,000 residents in the area were without power, the Sarasota County Emergency Management office said on its Facebook page.
Sarasota County officials reported damage to multiple homes near Siesta Key. At least one home was destroyed and a woman had to be pulled from the wreckage by first responders. Other damage reports include roofs being blown off homes.
The Sarasota Police Department early Sunday reported downed trees, minor flooding and mangled parking structures in the city.
Rodney Wynn, a NWS meteorologist, said a survey team determined that Duette, about 50 miles southeast of Tampa, was struck by a category EF2 tornado, with winds of between 111 mph and 135 mph. Teams were still surveying the tornado that hit Siesta Key, he said.
Tornadoes aren’t unheard of in beach communities, but they aren’t common either.
“It does happen, especial in an El Nino year,” Wynn said. “It’s not common, but it’s very possible.”
The Sarasota Police Department early Sunday reported downed trees and power lines and minor flooding. Officials in Tampa closed the Skyway Bridge, a major thoroughfare, Sunday morning for the second time since midnight after wind speeds reached up to 50 mph with wind gusts up to 60 mph.