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Reported Tornado Causes Damage In Tampa Bay Area

Tornado damage in Pinellas Park
Pinellas Park Police Department
A tornado caused damage in Pinellas Park on Dec. 16, 2020 as a powerful line of storms moved through the greater Tampa Bay region.

The tornado touched down in Pinellas Park just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. It then reformed later in the evening over Hillsborough and Polk Counties.

A tornado touched down in Pinellas Park on Wednesday afternoon as a powerful line of storms moved through the greater Tampa Bay region.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning starting in Pinellas County after 3:30 p.m., calling it a "large, extremely dangerous tornado."

The line of storms moved across the waters of Tampa Bay before coming onshore again near the Howard Frankland Bridge and moving through Tampa and Hillsborough County.

Warnings for Pinellas and Hillsborough counties expired, but the storm reformed around 4:45 p.m., causing meteorologists to issue another set of warnings for northeast Hillsborough County and Polk County.

As the storm moved east, the weather service also cited law enforcement reports of possible tornado damage near the Hillsborough River, just north of North Columbus Drive, and near Westshore Plaza around 4:15 p.m.

The tornado apparently touched down in Polk County, where emergency management officials said that at least three homes in Gibsonia near Daughtry Road and U.S. 98 sustained damage.

No fatalities or injuries were reported in Pinellas County by Wednesday evening. No other information about damage has been released by Polk County.

The weather service reported a tornado near Bryan Dairy Road and 66th Street just before 4 p.m., causing damage to vehicles and a warehouse. There were also reports of damage near 49th Street N and 118th Avenue N.

Pinellas Park Fire officials said up to 25 buildings off Endeavour Way sustained damage. The Pinellas Park Police Department tweeted several photos of the aftermath.

The police department also reported several traffic lights were out in the area, and several structures sustained damage.

Duke Energy reported significant damage to the electrical grid in the Pinellas Park and Largo areas, with over 25 power poles in need of repair or replacement.

The initial outage impacted approximately 14,000 customers. As of 10:30 p.m., about 4,000 customers were still without power.

Duke officials say many of those customers will get power back Wednesday night, but others may extend into Thursday.

At its peak shortly after the storms, 2,300 Tampa Electric customers were without power. However, by 8 p.m., only a handful were still out.

The powerful line of storms is the result of a cold front that is moving through the region. It will bring another round of chilly temperatures leading into the weekend.

This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for updates.

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.
Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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