Meteorologists Confirm Tornado In Pinellas Park As Strong Winds Hammer Tampa Bay
A tornado touched down in Pinellas Park on Thursday night, downing trees, billboards and power lines while ripping roofs off houses.
Construction cranes also were toppled, and thousands lost power across the region as a powerful squall line passed through the region late Thursday into the overnight hours.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service confirmed Friday that the damage was caused by an EF-0 tornado that touched down around 10:38 p.m. with peak winds at 85 mph.
The storms left a trail of damage, according to the Weather Service. It reported wind damage in several areas throughout Tampa Bay, and stiff winds continue to blow early Friday morning with gusts of 62 mph reported on Anna Maria Island, and 56 mph in St. Petersburg.
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The Weather Service will investigate whether a tornado formed near 66th Street North and 97th Avenue North around 10:42 p.m.
Several reports on social media showed damage in that area, including signs and awnings blown away, and trees down.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is open after having closed on Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds reaching 40 mph. A high wind advisory remains in effect.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the crane – part of the Gateway construction project – blocked the northbound lanes of I-275 at Roosevelt Boulevard near St. Petersburg around 11:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.
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Bay News 9 also reported another crane tumbled in Tampa's Channelside district.
In addition, the Winter Haven Police Department reported a power line snapped and blocked a portion of First Street at Cypress Gardens Boulevard. No injuries were reported.
Earlier Thursday, strong winds caused a large oak tree to fall on a mobile home on U.S. 41 in Pasco County, trapping an elderly woman inside, according to Pasco County Fire Rescue. She was freed and taken by Bayflite to an area hospital for treatment.
Conditions are expected to ease throughout the day as the system moves east. Winds will gradually calm and temperatures will cool, according to the Weather Service, with highs only reaching the mid to upper 60s under cloudy skies.
Skies will clear, and warmer conditions will arrive by Sunday with highs in the upper 70s ahead of a return to 80-degree weather to start the work week, forecasters said.