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Weather takes its fury out on Brandon

All of the Tampa Bay area was under a tornado watch Sunday afternoon, but Brandon residents seem to have born the brunt of the blustery weather.

The watch was in effect from noon until 6 p.m., said Frank Alsheimer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

"It was a strong storm," he said. "Locally, there were heavy rains and gusty winds."

The strong winds caused a large tree to fall across a busy road, sheriff's officials said. No one was injured when the tree went down at Woodberry Road and Lakewood Avenue just after 3 p.m.

The storm kicked up high winds and driving rains that knocked over a store under construction off Brandon's main drag, said Tammy Hayes, an employee of the Arby's restaurant at 903 W Brandon Blvd., next door to the damaged building.

"When it fell, it really made a loud boom," she said. "Those people are going to have to start all over again."

The storm was quick and intense, said Louise Boyette, who lives on Pauls Drive in Brandon.

"We could see everything twisting around for a few seconds," Boyette said. "There was a lot of loud noise and real heavy winds."

Boyette said the storm skipped around her small neighborhood, causing slight damage in some areas and none in others.

One of her neighbors reported seeing a small funnel cloud touch down near his end of the street.

Hayes said the storm blew shingles off a few roofs and caused the computers at Arby's to shut down briefly.

"A couple of people told me they saw a little waterspout touch down," she said.

Alsheimer said he heard from TV news reports that a small funnel cloud had touched down, but he had no official confirmation.

Along the Pinellas beaches, the storms dropped nearly an inch of rain at Indian Rocks Beach and produced startling lightning strikes. Residents in Clearwater and parts of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties also had a wet, windy Sunday. Beverly Hills and New Port Richey each got nearly an inch of rain.

The turbulent weather was caused by a low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico that moved into the area before heading northeast into Georgia, Alsheimer said.

The weather service expects summerlike weather for trick-or-treating this afternoon and tonight. Highs today should be in the low to mid-80s with a low tonight around 70. Sunday evening, the Weather Service predicted a 30 percent chance of showers for this afternoon and evening.