Cleanup efforts are underway after tornadoes ripped through the central coast of Florida early Sunday and left one couple dead and five members of their family injured.
The National Weather Service confirmed at least two tornadoes touched down before dawn Sunday in Manatee County, where two people died, and nearby Sarasota County.
Victims Stephen and Kelli Wilson were asleep in their mobile home when the category EF2 tornado — with winds estimated at 127 mph — struck. Stephen Wilson, 58, was pronounced dead at the scene while Kelli Wilson, 51, was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department.
The couple’s adult son, also named Stephen Wilson, escaped with four children. His two young sons, his daughter and their cousin were hospitalized for what were considered non life-threatening injuries.
“I’m amazed to see anybody got out of this alive,” Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said in a Sunday news conference. “I mean you look at the debris… this is complete devastation for the home.”
Randy Sharp, a neighbor and friend, described the couple as “full of life and love” and said would do anything for someone in need.
“You don’t find neighbors like this. They were the best,” Sharp told Tampa news station Fox 13 on Sunday morning. “We only knew each other five years, but it was like a lifetime.”
A second tornado touched down in the Siesta Keys on t爱上海同城对对碰
Jamie Carson, a spokesman for the Sarasota County Government, said more than 350 homes had already been inspected as of late Sunday morning, with about 45 of them sustaining damage. Heavy damage to a mid-rise condo displaced between 80 and 100 residents.
Estimates of the damage to just Sarasota County stand at more than $3 million.
Carson said local authorities will continue to issue warnings and advisories and will direct displaced residents to a service area where they can get help from power companies, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and others.
“We are more focused on hurricane season, but being a coastal community, we are susceptible to situations such as this,” Carson said, noting that it’s been “more than a few years” since a tornado like Sunday’s affected the area.
Sunday’s fatalities in Manatee County mark the first tornado-related deaths in the Tampa Bay area since Tropical Storm Debby in 2012, according to Fox 13.
“It’s not all that common to seen an EF2 tornado in this area, but if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the winter months and it’s going to happen during El Niño,” said Fox meteorologist Mike Bennett.
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