Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay tornado damages downtown Tampa

TAMPA — A powerful gust of wind suddenly whipped open the doors and rattled the windows at the Hooters along Channelside Drive.

Outside, patio furniture was hurled about like toys.

Fearing the windows would shatter, general manager Rob Fisher ordered customers and employees to move farther inside the building.

Thirty seconds later, the wind stopped.

What Fisher and others experienced Tuesday was a brief but destructive tornado, the remnants of a water spout that churned to life in the bay near Davis Islands before moving over the Harbour Island bridge and becoming a low-level tornado.

"This was a very dangerous situation because it happened so quickly, and any tornado is dangerous,'' said Mike Clay, chief meteorologist with Bay News 9.

The tornado struck the Westin Tampa Harbour Island hotel, damaging the roof and awnings and scattering debris as a line of severe weather moved through west central Florida.

No injuries were reported from the tornado, which weather officials categorized as an F-0, with wind speeds of 40–72 mph.

"Probably the high side of that,'' said National Weather Service meteorologist Daniel Noah, adding that waterspouts briefly becoming tornadoes is not unusual in Florida.

"It can happen quite often up and down our coast,'' he said.

Downed trees, minor structural damage and scattered power outages were reported around the region.

Wind gusts of 25 to 30 mph were typical as the front moved through the region.

In Cedar Key, where wind gusts were clocked at 91 mph, trees were snapped and debris scattered over a wide area, but no one was injured, Noah said.

Much of west central Florida got rain, with downpours reported from Wesley Chapel to Bradenton.

Progress Energy reported about 700 customers out of power at one point Tuesday afternoon, according to the company's outage map.

The biggest outage was in Pasco County, where six elementary schools postponed FCAT writing tests for their fourth-grade classes.

Beyond the Westin hotel, scattered damage also was reported near the downtown Tampa waterfront.

On Harbour Island, workers cleared debris from the entrance of the Westin resort, where part of the metal roof was blown away.

A block away on Harbour Place Drive, a broken light pole was on the ground, with shattered glass scattered across a sidewalk.

Along Channelside Drive, some businesses sustained damage.

At Taverna Opa restaurant, manager Rachel Prophet and other employees were about to open about 11:30 a.m. when the restaurant's large outside sign collapsed and shattered the glass front door.

There were no customers inside.

"We had just opened. Thank God," Prophet said. "Pretty wild."

The storms preceded a cold front expected to bring cooler temperatures over the next three days, followed by another cold front that will usher in some of the coldest temperatures of the season, with freeze warnings likely in some areas.

As Tampa Bay prepared for cooler temperatures, parts of the Midwest were getting battered Tuesday with more than a foot of snow.

Tampa Bay tornado damages downtown Tampa 02/26/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.
  2. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)

    Military

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921
  3. Long day of diplomacy: Tillerson visits Afghanistan, Iraq

    Military

    BAGHDAD — Far from the Washington murmurs about his future, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to two of America's enduring war zones Monday, prodding leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq to reach out to longtime rivals.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, speaks Monday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, accompanied by Gen. John Nicholson, left, and Special Charge d’Affaires Amb. Hugo Llorens.
  4. Head-on crash kills Wesley Chapel teacher and Zephyrhills man

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Two men, including a high school math teacher, were killed Monday in a head-on crash on Morris Bridge Road, deputies said.

    Shackelford
  5. Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers

    Blogs

    A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

    The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.