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Nestor Spawns Tornadoes, Dumps Heavy Rain On Tampa Bay

Tropical Storm Nestor made a powerful arrival Friday night and early Saturday, producing tornadoes along with heavy downpours and gusty winds that knocked out power to thousands across the Tampa Bay area.

The National Weather Service reported tornadoes touched down in Seminole, and eastern Hillsborough and western Polk counties late Friday night, causing damage to Kathleen Middle School, the Twelve Oaks Mobile Home Park in Seminole, and other areas, according to reports. A tornado watch remains in effect for the Tampa Bay area until noon.

A reported tornado also overturned a tractor trailer on Interstate 4 in Polk County late Friday night, tying up westbound traffic for hours, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The tornado risk will remain intact into midday for central Florida, and later in the day for coastal Georgia and the Carolinas.

The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for coastal Hernando County from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. Southerly winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph are expected.

RELATED: Here's A List of Events Cancelled Because Of Tropical Storm Nestor

As of Saturday at 6 a.m., Tampa Electric reported more than 1,000 customers without power in both South Tampa and Sun City Center.  More than 2,300 Lakeland Electric customers are without power near the site of the reported tornado in Kathleen, and more than 300 Duke Energy customers without power in Pinellas County. (Update: As of 4 p.m. Saturday, Lakeland Electric reported nearly 8,500 customers without power, and additional utilities crews arriving from Ocala and Kissimmee to help.)

Tropical Storm Nestor
Credit National Weather Service
National Weather Service
Tropical Storm Nestor'spath

In Polk County, the tornado initially touched down in the area of Lakeland Linder Airport. The storm continued in a north, northeast direction stretching from the airport as far north as Tom Bryant Lane. Several areas sustained damage to include the New and Old Tampa Highway corridors and Timber Ridge. The Polk County Sheriff's Office Emergency Communications Center received dozens of reports of damage.

Mt. Tabor and the surrounding streets sustained damage to structures, power lines and numerous trees were reported being down or damaged.  The apparent path of the tornado, according to reports of damage received by Polk Sheriff's officials, caused damage to Kathleen Middle School and numerous residential structures.

No serious injuries were reported. Here's a map of outages in the areas covered by Lakeland Electric.

Here's a map of power outages in areas served by Tampa Electric.

As of 9 a.m., there were 710 power outages reported in Pinellas County and 40 in Pasco County. Click here to get an update from Duke Energy.

Steady rain, and periods of strong storms, continue to fall as Nestor moves to the northeast toward the Florida Panhandle, according to the National Hurricane Center. This rain could produce flash flooding and isolated street flooding in low-lying areas.

WEATHER: Storm track, hourly outlooks, 7-day forecasts and weather alerts

As of Saturday at 8 a.m., Nestor was located about 80 miles south-southwest of Panama City and racing northeast at 17 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its maximum sustained winds have dropped to 50 mph, with higher gusts, and tropical storm winds extend 160 miles from the center.

On its current path, forecasters say Nestor is expected to make landfall later in the Florida Panhandle later in the morning.

ALERTS: Download the Florida Storms app to get severe weather notifications

A storm surge warning remains in effect for coastal areas north of Clearwater Beach. Tampa Bay can expect tides to run 1-3 feet above normal, and 2-4 feet in the surge warning area, according to the Hurricane Center.

Forecasters say conditions will begin to improve later in the day as Nestor makes landfall and moves inland.

Tropical Storm Nestor
Credit National Hurricane Center
Wind speed map of Tropical Storm Nestor

I wasn't always a morning person. After spending years as a nighttime sports copy editor and page designer, I made the move to digital editing in 2000. Turns out, it was one of the best moves I've ever made.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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