1. Local Weather

Tornado overturns semi-trailer in Polk; winds cause blackouts in Pinellas

A tornado caused damage and power loss but no injuries in Pinellas County. In Polk County, I-4 drivers were fortunate no one was injured when another tornado crosses the interstate.
Published Oct. 19, 2019
Updated Oct. 19, 2019

Two tornadoes wreaked havoc across the Tampa Bay region late Friday and early Saturday.

In Pinellas County, a tornado damaged some mobile homes, downed power lines and knocked out the traffic lights at the intersection of Park Boulevard and Seminole Boulevard on Friday night, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was categorized as an F-0, with winds between 65 and 85 mph.

No injuries were reported, said Deputy Chuck Skipper.

Meanwhile drivers on Interstate 4 outside Lakeland had a harrowing night as a stronger tornado reportedly crossed the interstate. A semitrailer truck overturned, and the trailer ended up falling on top of an SUV.

A video of the incident appeared to show powerful winds pushing the truck over on the rain-slicked interstate, causing it to roll onto the dark-colored SUV.

No one was injured in the incident. The SUV was driven by a family visiting from Illinois, but they declined to comment to the Tampa Bay Times.

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Polk county, rating it an F-2 with winds estimated at 120 mph, meteorologist Rodney Wynn said.

Polk County Sheriff’s deputies said Saturday that the tornado initially touched down near the Lakeland Linder Airport and continued in a north, northeast direction as far as Tom Bryant Lane.

The sheriff’s emergency communications center received dozens of reports of damage, including to Kathleen Middle School, numerous residential structures and areas throughout the New and Old Tampa Highway corridors and Timber Ridge.

Sheriff Grady Judd said there were no reported serious injuries.

“However, there are many people dealing with damage to their homes and property this morning, some of it severe," Judd said in a statement. “Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and if there is anything you can do to help your friends and neighbors, do it.”

In Pinellas, reports of wind damage started coming in at about 9:20 p.m. Friday.

The weather service reported that homes at the Twelve Oaks Mobile Home Park at 10999 Park Blvd. may have been affected.

Duke Energy’s online blackout map showed about 1,000 customers without power in the area surrounding the intersection. By early Saturday, those customers regained power while a total of about 700 scattered across Pinellas had lost theirs.

A pickup truck leaves a wake as it plows through the flooded intersection at Venetian Boulevard NE and Bayou Grande Boulevard during Tropical Storm Nestor.
A pickup truck leaves a wake as it plows through the flooded intersection at Venetian Boulevard NE and Bayou Grande Boulevard during Tropical Storm Nestor. [ ROY LEBLANC | Times ]

There were reports of minor damage to homes and a tree branch in the roadway, Skipper said. But the Sheriff’s Office was still assessing the scene.

A tornado watch is in effect for all of Tampa Bay until noon Saturday. Showers are expected throughout the day, but conditions should start to quiet down by late afternoon, Wynn said.