- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

LADY LAKE, Fla. (AP) — Storms carrying what was believed to be the state’s deadliest tornado in a decade cut a path across four central Florida counties early Friday, killing at least 14 people, damaging hundreds of homes and littering fields with clothes, furniture and splintered lumber.

Crews moved through the region searching for more victims and restoring power to thousands of residents.

Dozens of mobile homes were destroyed near Lady Lake in Lake County, about 50 miles northwest of Orlando. Chairs, beds and clothes were strewn about yards, with debris hanging from trees. Some homes were tossed from their foundations, while others had their roofs ripped off.

The Lady Lake Church of God was demolished, its pews, altar and Bibles left in a jumbled mess. The 31-year-old, steel-reinforced structure was built to withstand 150-mph winds, the Rev. Larry Lynn said.

By daybreak, parishioners gathered amid the ruins, hugging each other and consoling Lynn. They planned to clear the debris and hold Sunday services on the empty lot.

“That’s just the building. The people are the church. We’ll be back bigger and stronger,” Lynn said.

The storms moved across Sumter and Lake counties around 3:15 a.m., then to Volusia County, where 69 homes and a county medical clinic were damaged, authorities said.

“Our priority today is search and rescue,” Gov. Charlie Crist told reporters in Tallahassee as he declared a state of emergency in four counties.

In The Villages, one of the nation’s largest retirement communities, Lee Shaver said he shielded his wife Irene with his body while huddling in a closet as the roof peeled off their home. Fence posts launched as projectiles were embedded into the wall of their home, Irene Shaver said.

“Every muscle and bone in my body shook,” said Lee Shaver, 54. “We don’t know what to do. We have no cell phones, wallets, IDs.”

Many homes were turned into rubble along Lake Mack. Vern Huber, 87, said his weather radio went off around 3:30 a.m. and he and his wife, Louedna, 81, huddled in the hall and put pillows from the couch on top of themselves.

“It was a deafening roar,” Huber said.

Lake County spokesman Christopher Patton confirmed the 14 deaths, 11 in Paisley and three in Lady Lake. No further details were available.

The storms moved across the area about 3:15 a.m., the weather service said.

“The most dangerous tornado scenario is a threat for killer tornadoes at night, and that was the case,” said Dave Sharp, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Melbourne.

At least five crashes took place within a quarter mile of each other near Interstate 4’s New Smyrna Beach exit, closing the highway for about three hours.

In one case, a tractor-trailer was lifted up and landed on another semi, pinning the driver in his cab, said Kim Miller, a spokeswoman with the Florida Highway Patrol. The driver did not suffer life-threatening injuries, she said.

About 10,000 customers were without power across a wide swath of central Florida, Progress Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

The state Emergency Operations Center was activated, said Mike Stone, spokesman at the state’s Department of Emergency Management. Several counties opened shelters for those who lost their homes.

In February 1998, five twisters hit near Orlando over two days, killing 42 people and damaging or destroying about 2,600 homes and businesses, according to the National Weather Service. It was Florida’s deadliest spate of tornadoes.LADY LAKE, Fla. (AP) — Storms carrying what was believed to be the state’s deadliest tornado in a decade cut a path across four central Florida counties early Friday, killing at least 14 people, damaging hundreds of homes and littering fields with clothes, furniture and splintered lumber.

Crews moved through the region searching for more victims and restoring power to thousands of residents.

Dozens of mobile homes were destroyed near Lady Lake in Lake County, about 50 miles northwest of Orlando. Chairs, beds and clothes were strewn about yards, with debris hanging from trees. Some homes were tossed from their foundations, while others had their roofs ripped off.

The Lady Lake Church of God was demolished, its pews, altar and Bibles left in a jumbled mess. The 31-year-old, steel-reinforced structure was built to withstand 150-mph winds, the Rev. Larry Lynn said.

By daybreak, parishioners gathered amid the ruins, hugging each other and consoling Lynn. They planned to clear the debris and hold Sunday services on the empty lot.

“That’s just the building. The people are the church. We’ll be back bigger and stronger,” Lynn said.

The storms moved across Sumter and Lake counties around 3:15 a.m., then to Volusia County, where 69 homes and a county medical clinic were damaged, authorities said.

“Our priority today is search and rescue,” Gov. Charlie Crist told reporters in Tallahassee as he declared a state of emergency in four counties.

In The Villages, one of the nation’s largest retirement communities, Lee Shaver said he shielded his wife Irene with his body while huddling in a closet as the roof peeled off their home. Fence posts launched as projectiles were embedded into the wall of their home, Irene Shaver said.

“Every muscle and bone in my body shook,” said Lee Shaver, 54. “We don’t know what to do. We have no cell phones, wallets, IDs.”

Many homes were turned into rubble along Lake Mack. Vern Huber, 87, said his weather radio went off around 3:30 a.m. and he and his wife, Louedna, 81, huddled in the hall and put pillows from the couch on top of themselves.

“It was a deafening roar,” Huber said.

Lake County spokesman Christopher Patton confirmed the 14 deaths, 11 in Paisley and three in Lady Lake. No further details were available.

The storms moved across the area about 3:15 a.m., the weather service said.

“The most dangerous tornado scenario is a threat for killer tornadoes at night, and that was the case,” said Dave Sharp, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Melbourne.

At least five crashes took place within a quarter mile of each other near Interstate 4’s New Smyrna Beach exit, closing the highway for about three hours.

In one case, a tractor-trailer was lifted up and landed on another semi, pinning the driver in his cab, said Kim Miller, a spokeswoman with the Florida Highway Patrol. The driver did not suffer life-threatening injuries, she said.

About 10,000 customers were without power across a wide swath of central Florida, Progress Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

The state Emergency Operations Center was activated, said Mike Stone, spokesman at the state’s Department of Emergency Management. Several counties opened shelters for those who lost their homes.

In February 1998, five twisters hit near Orlando over two days, killing 42 people and damaging or destroying about 2,600 homes and businesses, according to the National Weather Service. It was Florida’s deadliest spate of tornadoes.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide