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Fallen power line kills Spring Hill girl, 17, as storm plows through Tampa Bay area

The power line set fire to the girl’s car, troopers said, and she stepped on it as she tried to escape through the passenger door.
An unidentified patron walks from Rum Runners at the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor. Strong winds ripped a portion of the roof off and downed power lines in the area Sunday.
An unidentified patron walks from Rum Runners at the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor. Strong winds ripped a portion of the roof off and downed power lines in the area Sunday. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Apr. 11
Updated Apr. 12

A 17-year-old Spring Hill girl was electrocuted during Sunday’s violent thunderstorms as she tried to escape from her burning car after colliding with a fallen power line, troopers said.

The teen was driving down Evenglow Avenue in Spring Hill when she collided at about 12:15 p.m. with a power line brought down by a falling tree, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The driver side of her Dodge Avenger caught fire. She stepped on the live power line as she exited the car.

Medics pronounced her dead at the scene.

Evenglow Avenue, a residential street north of Veterans Memorial Park in Spring Hill, was closed to traffic as firefighters with Hernando County Fire and Emergency Services worked to put out the flames touched off by the power lines. On Facebook, the Hernando Sheriff’s Office advised people who live on the street to stay in their homes until further notice.

Bryan Nartowicz, 48, with Pike electric, looks for a missing power pole behind the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor.
Bryan Nartowicz, 48, with Pike electric, looks for a missing power pole behind the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

The Highway Patrol did not release the girl’s name because of its interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution that was meant to protect crime victims but that deprives the public of information long available under Florida’s public records law.

The death was the only casualty reported Sunday as severe thunderstorms plowed through the Tampa Bay area, bringing lightning, gusty winds and heavy rainfall. A severe thunderstorm watch remained in effect until 4 p.m. across Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Citrus counties.

A portion of the roof is seen damaged at the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor.
A portion of the roof is seen damaged at the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Eastbound and westbound lanes of State Road 52 in Pasco County were blocked at U.S. 41 because power lines were down, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said. Spectrum Bay News 9 posted images on social media of roof damage at Rum Runners Bar on Alderman Road and Alternate U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor and of fallen tree limbs at homes in Palm Harbor.

Widespread thunderstorms and heavy rain bands were expected to cause flooding in low-lying and poorly drained areas, meteorologists said. Most of central Florida was expected to have at least one to two inches of rain by Sunday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Debris is seen strewn along a walkway at the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor.
Debris is seen strewn along a walkway at the Key West Center Sunday in Palm Harbor. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

The severe weather closed COVID-19 vaccination sites in Hillsborough County on Sunday, a week after vaccination criteria expanded to include all Florida residents age 18 or older, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds who want to receive the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Vaccination sites at the Tampa Greyhound Track, the Larry Sanders Sports Complex in Tampa, and the Oakland Community Center in Haines City had hoped to open by 3 p.m. after the worst of the weather passed but canceled those plans. Three mobile vaccination sites in Tampa also were closed Sunday — Hyde Park, Greater Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay also closed early Sunday, sending guests home at 3 p.m. due to lightning and dangerous weather conditions. An update on the park’s Twitter account said it should reopen at 10 a.m. Monday.

The storm watch Sunday followed a scary Saturday evening in some Tampa Bay communities. About 20 homes in Bradenton were damaged by severe storms, Manatee County Emergency Management said. Wind ripped off the roofs on five of the homes. The damage was centered in a neighborhood near the IMG Academy Golf Club and at condominiums on nearby 43rd Street West.

Sunday’s seven-day forecast for Tampa Bay from Spectrum’s Klystron 9 radar.
Sunday’s seven-day forecast for Tampa Bay from Spectrum’s Klystron 9 radar. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 ]

A tornado reportedly touched down in a neighborhood near El Conquistador Parkway, where emergency medical personnel responded to a call about one person with non-life threatening injuries, according to the Manatee County Public Safety Department. The National Weather Service had yet to confirm that a tornado touched down in the neighborhood but has confirmed a “straight-line wind event.”

Related: UPDATE: National Weather Service confirms 2 tornadoes formed in central Florida this weekend

The severe weather will usher in a weak front on Monday that is expected to dry out the rainy weather, said Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker. The front may bring a respite from high humidity but not from heat, with highs Monday expected to be in the mid-80s.

Cooler weather is possible later in the week.