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Severe weather moving through Hillsborough County knocks out power, brings down traffic lights, trees

TAMPA — Lavon Ellerman stood in her yard and stared at the spot where her house used to be.

A tree from a neighboring yard came crashing down Tuesday afternoon on 1306 E Crawford St. in Old Seminole Heights, crushing the southeast bedroom, the front porch and cracking the walls. The single-story home wasn't even visible from the street anymore.

"All you can see is the tree," said Ellerman, 69, who used to own a car wash in St. Petersburg.

Across Hillsborough County, the severe weather knocked out traffic lights, brought down trees and blew large debris into streets. More than 8,000 Tampa Electric customers lost power for hours.

Still, the National Weather Service said there were no confirmed tornadoes Tuesday in Hillsborough.

"Straight-line winds occur with thunderstorms. They are strong, gusty winds that push out of storms and can be just as strong as winds associated with a tornado," said Jon Jelsema, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "Especially in the summer, some portion of this area can see winds up to 60 mph."

Ellerman said it wouldn't have taken much wind to knock down that tree. She complained to her neighbor about it two years ago when another tree fell and crushed her shed.

"That tree was hollow, and you can see that this one is hollow," Ellerman said.

The crushed bedroom belongs to her 23-year-old grandson, who lives there to be close to work.

"I thank God he was at the gym," Ellerman said. "We were able to get the dog out and now we are seeing what else we can salvage before the insurance company comes."

Tampa police reported other downed trees on Sligh Avenue at 15th Street, in the 2400 block of N Ramona Circle and in the 800 block of E Elm Street in Tampa.

They closed intersections for downed power lines and traffic signals that didn't work, and alerted drivers to be especially careful at a dozen road segments in the city.

Work crews were surveying the damage countywide, said Preston Cook, the county's director of emergency management.

"We sent up the sheriff's helicopter to survey the damage," Cook said. "We're sending out Public Works to trim trees and clear debris."

Early Tuesday evening, damage was reported at Tampa Bay Technical High School's dugout. And some panels were blown off the sound barrier wall at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre.

For Ellerman, the storm was an unpleasant capper on an already long day.

"I was supposed to be at home resting because I had a tumor removed from my hand this morning," Ellerman said. "I'm supposed to resting, and now I have to deal with this."

According to Bay News 9 meteorologists, she has a 60 percent chance of facing another thunderstorm today.

Severe weather moving through Hillsborough County knocks out power, brings down traffic lights, trees 07/10/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 11:37pm]
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