Storms leave trail of damage from Pinellas Park to Polk County

Warehouses and buildings along Endeavor Way, near 66th Street in Pinellas Park, suffered significant damage after a tornado tore through a two-mile span of Pinellas County early Wednesday evening.

Car windows were shattered, and businesses had walls ripped down. An 18-wheeler was knocked over on its side and roofs from large buildings laying up against fences.

We spoke to one office worker who said the bad storm turned into one that felt potentially deadly very quickly.

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“The power went out and within 90 seconds it was on us. It just blew the doors in, took half the roof off, it was an extreme experience, nothing I have ever gone through before,” Danny Wilcox, with Southern Lock and Supply told FOX 13 News. “We all took off to the inner room to the building to make sure we were safe. Fortunately, No one in the building got hurt.”

Pinellas Park police said they checked every building and car in the area that was damaged and found no one injured or in need of rescue.

Business owners and insurance adjustors started to take stock of the damage and all that was lost before the sun went down. Once the sun comes up Thursday, it will be easier to get a full account.

Police asked everyone in the area to be careful and to avoid Endeavor Way unless they absolutely have to be there.

Tornadoes were essentially caused by the same cell cycling over and over as it moved along I-275 and I-4, meteorologist Tyler Eliasen says.

Phones started buzzing with alerts just before 4 p.m. Starting around 4:15 p.m., SkyTower Radar showed "strong rotation" moving east from Feather Sound, over the Howard Frankland Bridge, according to FOX 13 Chief Meteorologist Paul Dellegatto

Over the next hour, the line of storms triggered tornado warnings from Tampa to Lakeland.

Crews from multiple agencies responded to reports of collapsed structures, downed trees, and snapped power poles. The Pinellas Park Police Department said in a tweet that emergency crews were responding to multiple scenes with  "structural damage due to weather."

About a mile away, residents on Elmhurst drive described it like a freight-train coming through, and you could see why. The view from SkyFOX shows lines of downed trees, tossed debris, and damaged homes.

Karol Singleton was outside surveying the damage to her home Wednesday night. Somewhere underneath her neighbor’s tree is Karol’s house. Her car was totally covered by debris. She said she just paid it off in the last few months.

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But Singleton said she has insurance. She’s just glad no one was hurt.

“The wind was so unreal. The windows felt like they were buckling,” Singleton said. “It was scary, but it was over so quick, about 45 seconds to a minute.”

And cleanup began just as quickly. Within the hour, chainsaws could be heard for miles, clearing the trees that fell across driveways and roads. It's going to be a busy few days, with the cleanup and insurance work still left to be done.

“We’re extremely fortunate and we hope the injury report stays where it is,” PPPD Captain Adam Geissenberger offered.

As the sun went down and power crews worked to restore electricity to the roughly 14,000 residents who lost power in Pinellas County, police urged caution on roadways. Pinellas Park police also said traffic signals were out at "multiple locations" but the majority of the damage was confined to less-populated industrial areas instead of neighborhoods.

Near the intersection of Belcher Road and Bryan Dairy Road, streetlights were out and officers were placed to direct traffic.

The view from SkyFOX showed the dark portions of northern Pinellas County where many homes and businesses lost power.

Duke Energy officials said the tornado caused significant damage to the electrical grid, but they still managed to whittle down some 14,000 customers without power to about 3,000 by 10 p.m.

Still, more than 25 power poles needed to be replaced or repaired.

View from SkyFOX of areas without power after tornadic activity in Pinellas Park

Crews said they would be working through the night and there still may be some without power into Thursday morning.

Officials said to treat any down power line or pole as if it’s live and make sure to stay 30 feet away.

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Damage in Pinellas Park, seen from SkyFOX

Damage in Pinellas Park, seen from SkyFOX

Damage in Pinellas Park, seen from SkyFOX

The view of downtown Tampa around 4:20 p.m. Wednesday.