TAMPA — Joseph Shelton woke up from a dream early Monday in a cold sweat. He reached for his cellphone, dialed his mom.
"I love you," Shelton, 19, told her. "I had a really bad dream — you died."
His mother, Barbara Young, 50, told him not to worry. Everything was fine, quiet.
"I said, 'Go back to sleep, your mama's all right.' "
Two hours later, a thick oak tree crashed through the roof of her house.
"It sounded like thunder, but then I heard my sister scream," Young said. "I didn't know what to think until I saw the branches inside the house."
The old oak in the family's back yard at 301 E Clinton St. in Old Seminole Heights burst through the guest bedroom ceiling just before 5 a.m. as Tropical Storm Debby raged outside, sending wind gusts of up to 50 mph tearing through the Tampa Bay area.
The tree's roots pushed through the moist soil as its trunk tumbled into the blue bungalow. Branches laden with Spanish moss barely missed Young's sleeping sister and nephew, visiting from Atlanta.
They came out of the room covered in a white sheen of dust and tufts of insulation.
The tree crushed the roof over the guest bedroom and master bathroom. Cracks ran along the ceiling through adjacent rooms.
Paramedics took Young's 16-year-old nephew to the hospital with minor injuries. Her sister was unharmed.
"It seemed like just rain yesterday," said Young's son Jeremiah, 15. "I didn't think it was that bad until the tree fell. I guess it was that bad."
The storm, likely to linger for several days, has already doused Tampa with record amounts of rain, toppled trees, downed power lines and flooded roads. More is on the way.
Young, who is on dialysis and had to postpone a hospital trip, was on the phone with the Red Cross and her landlord Monday trying to get the roof taken care of — or her family moved — before the rain started up again.
Shelton sat on the sofa, looking on. "She didn't even call me," he said. "I didn't know about it until I woke up this morning."
"I didn't want you to get all panicky," Young said. "Your mama's all right. We're all all right. It's just a storm."
Marissa Lang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386.