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Tornadoes kill 2, shred homes in North Florida

LAKE CITY — A tornado ripped through this North Florida city on Friday, killing two people, turning a home onto its side and scattering debris everywhere, officials said.

A woman was killed when a tree fell onto her mobile home, and a man was killed while attempting to connect a generator after the power was knocked out by the twister that struck Friday morning, said Harvey Campbell, a spokesman for Columbia County Emergency Management.

Authorities had not identified the victims.

The tornado, which tore a path of destruction about 3 miles long in the northern part of Lake City, damaged a few businesses and more than 20 homes. Power was still out in much of the community, Campbell said.

Dan Helton, 36, a mason, said the powerful storm picked up his house off its concrete block foundation and dropped it onto its side.

Helton was in the kitchen when he saw a big pecan tree fall. Then the door blew in, and his television, refrigerator and furniture started falling into the kitchen as the house tumbled, he said.

"I didn't know what was happening. I knew it must have been a tornado. It was like a big suction," Helton said. "It was over in a matter of minutes."

Helton and his wife, Lisa, 32, along with his parents visiting from Ohio, received only minor bumps and bruises. But they lost everything in their rented home.

Power poles and tree limbs were snapped, and lines were down throughout the city. The winds even overturned a UPS delivery truck.

The tornado was spawned by a fast-moving storm that raced across northern Florida, producing high winds and heavy rains.

State emergency officials said two other tornadoes touched down in the tiny coastal town of Keaton Beach on the Gulf of Mexico and in Capitola, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Tallahassee. In Capitola, a handful of homes were destroyed, while others were damaged.

Dian Chase, who lost her home in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, was happy to survive the weather outside Tallahassee. She was knocked to the floor in her bedroom when high winds blew her home off its foundation, ripped away the roof and shredded the brick fireplace.

Nearby, high winds blew Vivian Norton's sport utility vehicle off the road, and an 8-inch-thick tree limb impaled the vehicle just after she and her daughter had gotten out.

"It was real scary," Norton said. "I just thank God we got out of it."

In Baker County, northwest of Jacksonville, Sheriff Joey Dobson reported that a brick home was destroyed, but there were no reports of injuries.

Tornadoes kill 2, shred homes in North Florida 03/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:31am]
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