Severe weather brings damage to Central Florida
ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - Central Florida had a stormy morning on Thursday, as a cold front moved into the area.
While the rain persisted throughout the morning, it cleared up before noon. Heavy rain and gusty winds were the main concerns of this weather.
Several homes in Lake County were destroyed as a result of the severe weather. Residents believe that a tornado passed through, but that is still being investigated.
In Mascotte, James Madison, former pastor of the Tuscanooga Baptist Church, surveyed his destroyed home. There's only one reason he says he and his wife survived.
“Lucky,” Madison said, “the lord was with us. Lord blessed us.”
Madison remembers what it was like when the storm hit. “I was in bed, asleep. It hit, threw my wife out of bed, moved the furniture all around, it was a mess,” he said.
Church members helped gather belongings from the house that Madison says he and his wife were almost trapped inside.
“All the doors was jammed shut. Couldn't open them,” he said, “we were just fortunate the firemen were all here. They helped me down the stairs.”
County officials say it could have been a tornado. “It looks like a tornado struck,” said Lake County Fire Chief Jim Dickerson, “there's about a half-mile debris field.”
The nearby church he used to lead had a damaged roof but Madison said one way or another they'll still be there on Sunday. “We just fix it and go on. Got to do,” he said.
The Madisons are now staying with family. Officials say besides his house, eight other buildings in the area had some damage but there were no injuries.
High winds also knocked down trees, taking down fences and even buildings on one Sanford street. The worst damage was at Builders First Source, where a whole building came crashing down. It sat crumpled in a heap. Ron Devlen is a structural engineer who works down the street.
“It would be a category-two hurricane force wind to do something like that. That's what it's designed for,” Devlen said.
Crews spent the morning clearing debris off the street. Limbs and trees toppled over fences. Devlen's staff couldn't even get into the parking lot.
“There was a large limb in the driveway and they had some help, he was trying to tug the limb out of the way so people could get in,” he said.
Debra Raulerson lives on the street. She had no idea the damage was that bad. “It was nice and calm, it looked good, just a lot of rain,” she said.
She's thankful her house isn't the one that got blown down. “I should have paid more attention to the weather! Because that could have been really bad!”
Lows on Thursday night into Friday will drop to around 43 degrees. Friday morning looks to be even colder, with lows in the 30s and 40s across Central Florida. This should set up the weekend to be beautiful, sunny, and cool with highs near 60 on both days.