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Tornado hits Panhandle, kills one, destroys homes

Published Sep. 9, 2005

The tornado arrived before dawn in a rural area about 90 miles west of Tallahassee.

One person died and 10 were injured when a predawn tornado Thursday cut a quarter-mile-wide path of damage through a sparsely populated area of the Florida Panhandle.

The tornado touched down about 4 a.m. and leveled about a dozen mobile homes or houses and knocked over trees near Wausau, a hilly rural town about 90 miles west of Tallahassee.

Three homes also were damaged in the Alford area of Jackson County, where no injuries were reported. Wind damage was reported in the Bay County town of Lynn Haven near Panama City.

Hubert Elton Worley, 59, of the Highview Acres community outside Wausau died when his mobile home was destroyed along with about five others, said Richard Hagan, Washington County director of emergency management. He said 10 other people were injured, including Worley's wife Marilyn, 41, who was listed in critical condition at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Ala.

The other nine people were treated and released from Northwest Florida Community Hospital in nearby Chipley.

Washington County Sheriff Fred Peel said there were "hundreds of trees with their tops blown out; a lot of debris, tin, scattered over a mile or so."

A total of about a dozen homes were destroyed and up to six others were damaged, Hagan said. About 5,000 homes lost power but most of it was restored by midafternoon, he said.

"Everything is leveled, there's trailers with nothing but the frames, vans turned upside down," said Shawn Sanders, fire chief in nearby Greenhead.

In Wausau, Tony and Lynn Arnold, owners of a business that raised snakes for pet stores, said they lost their building and inventory, including boas and pythons, to the storm.

"It's pretty much all gone," Lynn Arnold said. "We've lost carpet pythons, tree boas; we've got mice and rats all over the place. Everything's just everywhere."

The storm system also hit southwest Georgia about 6:30 a.m. At least 12 structures were destroyed in Grady and Decatur counties. A couple in Whigham, Ga., were hospitalized, one in critical condition. At least five people suffered lesser injuries.