Tornado rattles Tampa Bay Area residents, damages homes

T. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A tornado in Florida’s Tampa Bay region peeled off rooftops, snapped trees and roused residents from bed early Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service said there were no serious injuries reported from the twister that might have begun as a water spout before spinning onto shore in the Boca Ciega community west of St. Petersburg.

Unsettled weather across central and northern Florida spawned tornado warnings as the volatile system swept in from the Gulf coast and moved over Jacksonville, where funnel clouds were reported — but none of which apparently touched down before blowing offshore into the Atlantic.

“My wife looked out the window and there was stuff flying across the yard,” resident Ruan Vosloo told WFLA-TV of Tampa. “The house bumped.”

Warnings went out a few minutes before the tornado, which struck shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. The weather service said winds reached 75 mph before losing steam.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Linda Hetterich, 74, told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday afternoon. She recalled the harrowing experience of the twister ripping off their home’s aluminum rooftop, which went crashing into a neighbor’s house. “It sounded like a plane crashed into our house,” she said.

The National Weather Service said the tornado had a track 30 yards wide and traveled for a little over a mile.