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Tornadoes come, go in seconds

W. H. Wienecke of Pinellas Park was in his lounge chair Saturday morning watching This Old House, a TV show on home renovation. His wife, Evelyn, was dozing in her lounge chair next to him.

"I was very rudely awakened by stuff hitting me in the face," said the 78-year-old Mrs. Wienecke. "I stood up. The wind was blowing so hard I couldn't move."

Within seconds, the Wienecke's house at 6325 102nd Ter. was a pile of rubble.

The tornadoes that whipped off the Gulf of Mexico and hopscotched across Pinellas and Pasco counties Saturday morning caught thousands of residents by surprise. No one had expected worse than a rainy day.

Unlike Hurricane Andrew, a storm closely watched and widely warned, Saturday's tornadoes came from nowhere.

Those in the path of the violent but nameless storms emerged from their demolished homes in shock or crying. In Pinellas Park, where several neighborhoods suffered devastation, the smell of pine from snapped pine trees floated through the humid air.

Houses were spattered with bits of grass and pink insulation. Aluminum siding hung from the trees. Roofs looked like Popsicle sticks. Residents walked along sidewalks with suitcases. One man carried a bird cage down the street, taking his chirping cockatiel to safety.

Borrowing lessons learned from Hurricane Andrew, residents quickly painted the names of their insurance companies in large letters on garage doors or walls.

While the scope and path of Andrew was much more severe, it didn't appear that way to those who saw their worlds whirling around them Saturday morning.

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