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Tornadoes rip through Charlotte County

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Two tornadoes ripped through Charlotte County Wednesday afternoon as severe storms moved through the region.

The first, an EF-0 with winds up to 65 mph, was reported in the Murdock area, the county’s emergency management department said. Downed tree limbs and damaged light posts, windows and buildings were reported, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

Here’s more information on the EF-0 tornado from the NWS:

  • Path length – .2 miles
  • Path width – 100 yards
  • Time on ground – One minute
  • How confirmed – A Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office deputy saw the tornado, along with footage from a camera at a county government building.

A second tornado, an EF-1 with winds up to 97 mph, touched down in the Deep Creek area, where similar damage was reported. Homes in the area of Rampart and Nuremberg boulevards, and Banff Lane and Paraclete Road were damaged, including 11 that were deemed uninhabitable, officials said.

“The storms caused widespread structural damage to homes in the Deep Creek community,” the emergency management department said in a statement. “A total of 34 homes were damaged in Deep Creek.”

Here’s more information on the EF-1 tornado from the NWS:

  • Path length – 1.1 miles
  • Path width – 100 yards
  • Time on ground – Three minutes
  • Injuries – 1 person
  • How confirmed – Type of damage:
    • Numerous pool cages destroyed
    • Trees uprooted and snapped
    • At least 8 vehicles picked up and moved

Downed power lines and tree limbs resulted in power being shut off to the Deep Creek area. More than 4,200 people were without power Wednesday afternoon. Officials expect power to be restored by Wednesday night.

Residents impacted by the storm can receive help from the American Red Cross at Charlotte Fire/EMS Station 12, 2001 Luther Rd., Deep Creek. Volunteers will be at the fire station until midnight.

Another tornado was reported by a trained spotter three miles north of Harbour Heights in Charlotte County.

The neighborhood had no reported injuries because of advanced warnings, neighbors said. Joanne Debnam said her phone went off at least five minutes before the tornado touched down.

“Our neighbors are safe and so far we haven’t heard of any tragedies to people we care about, so it is a good thing within a bad thing,” she said.

Gerald Otten lost nearly everything in his home, with parts of his roof and most of his windows now missing, glass shattered all over the floor, and a caved in lanai.

“My wife was in the living room and screamed if I was okay, and I got out and went to her and she was okay,” Otten said. “And then we started to look at the damage in the house and it was just a mess.”

Charlotte, DeSoto, and Sarasota counties were under multiple tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings Wednesday afternoon.

Tree limbs and other debris were scattered across Port Charlotte, including pieces of metal that were ripped off the roof of the SunTrust Building near Murdock Circle and U.S. Highway 41.

“It was frightening and it felt like it was vibrating the building and it kept going on for quite a long time,” said Diana Warne who was in the building when the tornado hit.

Elizabeth Howell, another SunTrust employee added, “it did sound like a freight train and you could hear the windows shaking it was just terrible and then the fire alarm went off at the same time.”

No injuries were immediately reported. Multiple accidents and traffic light outages were also reported across the county.

The storms were part of a system that previously ripped through southern states and parts of the Panhandle.

The National Weather Service received reports of property damage and injuries after a confirmed tornado hit Pensacola on Tuesday. Gov. Rick Scott visited the area Wednesday morning to assess the damage, then declared a state of emergency for Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.