MADEIRA BEACH — Dale Moody was asleep in a second-floor room of the Holiday Isles Resort early Wednesday when a storm ripped off the roof.
"I woke up and thought I was outside," said Moody, 40, of Largo. "I was looking up at the sky. It was pretty intense and rain was coming in. At first I thought I was dreaming and then I thought, 'Oh, this is not good.' "
Moody retreated to the kitchen, which still had a roof, until the building was evacuated.
No one was injured.
The roof at the motel, 14711 Gulf Blvd., damaged the next-door condominium, the Palms of Madeira Beach.
Weather forecasters blamed straight-line winds, but Eileen Danelli-Rutz, 55, was convinced it was a tornado. Danelli-Rutz said she heard the sound of a freight train that is so often described by witnesses during a tornado.
Danelli-Rutz, who just moved from Richmond, Va., was staying at the motel with her daughter, son-in-law, 1-year-old grandson, Ryan, and a dog. She grabbed what she could and ran outside.
"I grabbed my jewelry and passport, took my pocketbook and shoes, but no clothes," she recalled as she stood outside the motel. She was desperate to get back to the room to get a breast pump for her grandson, but the evacuees were told they could not return until the building is inspected, which could take 24 hours.
Sixteen people were at the Holiday Isles and 12 at Palms of Madeira Beach when the winds came through, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies said. The roof also fell on three or four vehicles.
The residents were moved to another nearby motel.
Winds estimated at 50 to 60 mph were responsible for the damage, said Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. No other structures or trees in the area were damaged, he said.
Emergency managers who examined the building said it was old and in poor shape, which likely contributed to the damage.
Tammy McDonough, who manages the property with her husband, said she received a call from a guest who screamed that the roof had collapsed. She said a couple of people were asleep when debris fell on them. Fortunately, she said, no one was hurt.
"The roof was just peeled off like they took a can opener — like you just opened it up and let it go," McDonough said.
Inspectors told her it would take two weeks to two months to repair the roof. She said the whole building had to be closed.
McDonough said they hadn't had any issues with the roof before — no leaks, no problems.
The winds were part of a band of thunderstorms that also brought several inches of rain and lightning to the Tampa Bay area and caused scattered power outages affecting more than 2,500 customers in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, said Bay News 9 Meteorologist Juli Marquez.
St. Petersburg got the most overnight and Wednesday morning rain with 5.67 inches, according to Bay News 9. Tampa got 3.2 inches, Dade City got 2 inches and most of Hernando County got less than an inch.