A powerful squall line came ashore late Thursday, thrashed the Tampa Bay area, produced at least one tornado and pushed a crane over onto Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.
The storm seemed to inflict the most damage in central Pinellas County around 11 p.m. That’s also when a tornado was reported in Pinellas Park.
Powerful winds damaged mobile homes, threw debris around, toppled a billboard and downed power lines, according to Bay News 9.
During that same time period, the Florida Highway Patrol said the storm knocked a construction crane over in St. Petersburg, causing it to fall onto the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 at Roosevelt Boulevard N.
Troopers reported the crane collapse at about 11:30 p.m. No one was injured when it fell and blocked all northbound traffic on I-275. Those drivers were diverted onto Roosevelt Boulevard N for about an hour.
Crews removed the crane boom from the roadway, the Florida Department of Transportation reported at 12:30 a.m. Friday. The crane was being used on the Gateway Express project to build an elevated toll road at that juncture.
There were also reports of two trees falling onto homes in different counties, at different times of the day, and injuring those inside.
The first report came at about 3 p.m. in Pasco County, where firefighters said winds toppled a large oak tree that fell onto a Lutz mobile home in the 18300 block of U.S. 41, trapping the resident inside. Pasco Fire Rescue was able to free an elderly woman using airbags to raise the tree and the roof.
The woman, whose name was not released, was flown to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Her medical condition was not updated by officials. A dog was also rescued from the house.
That night, a tree was uprooted and fell onto a home in Seminole near Oakdale Terrace. Seven people were trapped inside the home at the time, according to Pinellas emergency officials, and one person was injured.
The injured person did not lose consciousness and received medical treatment. No other details about the incident were released.
Thousands lost power during the storm. By about 2 a.m. Friday, about 4,000 Pinellas customers were still without power, according to Duke Energy’s online outage map. At that time, about 8,000 were also without power in Hillsborough County, according to Tampa Electric Co.’s online outage map. Statewide, a peak of about 140,000 customers lost power as a result of the storm.
Th squall line made landfall at about 11 p.m. Thursday and started moving southeast across the Tampa Bay region. The storms brought with it wind gusts reaching to 50 to 60 mph or greater.
As the storm crossed the Gulf of Mexico, the National Weather Service issued all kinds of warnings that kept bay area cell phones buzzing: There were gale and special marine warnings in effect earlier in the day. A tornado warning for central Pinellas County and Hillsborough both expired before midnight. Then a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for all of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties
Wind gusts were reaching 40 mph earlier Thursday when they toppled over a tree in Pasco County earlier Thursday, trapping an elderly woman in her Lutz home off U.S. 41. Those gusts also spurred the Highway Patrol to shut down the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Thursday afternoon. The bridge was re-opened Friday morning.
The Florida State Fair opened on Thursday and promptly closed early at 5 p.m. because of the approaching storms.
The city of Clearwater told residents not to put out their trash and recycling out until Friday morning to avoid “flying trash and debris.”
The gale warning that was in effect is rare for the eastern Gulf of Mexico. There will be high surf and coastal flood advisories in effect through Friday morning.