The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on August 8, 2003 · Page 8
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 8

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, August 8, 2003
Page 8
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THE PALM BEACH POST Riviera TORNADO fromlA south of Donald Ross Road added to the chaos of the storm's aftermath. The National Weather Service reported at least 800 lightning strikes from 5:30 to 5:45 p.m. in northern Palm Beach and southern Martin counties and sites offshore, casting a strobe effect in the storm-darkened sky. Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown said his city narrowly avoided disaster at the Wells Recreation Center, which includes a ballfield near where railroad container cars were thrown off the nearby tracks and massive light poles blew down onto the baseball diamond. "If the storm had come through an hour later, there would have been 200 to 300 boys and girls on that field, practicing football and cheer-leading," Brown said. Brown declared a state of emergency and a curfew. Police bulked up in vests and donned helmets as the power outage persisted into the night Florida Power & Light spokesman Bill Swank said 10,000 homes remained without power as late as 10:30 p.m., and crews couldn't even enter some neighborhoods where standing water heightened the danger from the downed power lines. At the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. plant on Garden Road, "first the lights went out, then the walls started shaking just like in the movies, everybody started screaming and ran downstairs," said Carlos Toro, a warehouse loader. The wind popped the top off the building, which sustained an estimated $1 million in damage. Wind scooped up delivery trucks at the soft drink plant, throwing them on top of one another, and hoisted a semitrailer over a 30-yard-wide canal, landing it partially submerged on the opposite bank. Huge chunks of concrete were moved around like Legos. Sheet metal wrapped around poles like aluminum foil. "Lightning popped around. Stuff was floating, almost gracefully, floating up, not down. It was amazing," said Steve Gray of Allterra Engineering, just a few buildings down. At Mosler Auto Care Center in Riviera Beach, the wind lifted a transport trailer off the ground and blew it across the tops of eight used cars, then snapped off a 30-foot black olive tree. The trailer leaped a 12-foot-tall chain-and-barbed-wire fence, broke a light pole and settled on its side about 50 yards away. A Chevy van was blown six parking spaces from its spot, knocking over a chain-link fence, but landing remarkably unscathed. Bryant Allen, one of the Mosler workers, was a block away and heading back to the lot when the funnel cloud lifted the Ford F-150 he was driving off the ground. "I just jumped out I didn't even put it in park," Allen said. "Terrified? You better believe it!" Residents caught in the middle of their rush-hour routines were just as frightened. "I was almost to have a heart attack," said Mary Hickson, 68, of Riviera Beach, who hid in her bathroom as the wind roared outside, her fire alarm blared, her phone rang and the lights went dark. "All I was doing was walking and praying because all I could hear was that roaring, that roaring." Hickson emerged to find her shutters shredded, her patio furniture tossed over a fence and a neighbor's car spun around. SA Incompatible weather systems crash By ELIOT KLEINBERG Palm Beach Post Staff Writers A collision between two powerful and incompatible weather systems unleashed the severe storm and tornado that descended on Palm Beach County Thursday afternoon, forecasters said. The funnel cloud might have lasted for as long as 25 minutes, an eternity for South Florida twisters, but the breadth of the damage and the physical evidence left behind indicate much of it was done not by -I ie twister but by straight-line winds ' FRIDAY, AUGUST 8, 2003 Beach That first gust of wind came and sent everything flying," said Kelly Burrs of Riviera Beach, who was home with her husband, their three children and a 16-year-old niece when the storm hit "We felt the temperature change and we ran inside. We were all in the bathroom and everybody was crying." While the Burrs family huddled inside, the 30-foot black olive tree in their front yard was uprooted and fell onto their driveway next to a Lincoln Navigator. "My black Camaro was under the tree," said Ernest Burrs, Kelly's husband and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper. Kelly Burrs said she's convinced two tornadoes struck close together. "It wasn't even a minute apart," she said. The National Weather Service blamed the havoc on a confluence of sea breezes flowing inland from the Atlantic colliding with winds heading towards the ocean from Lake Okeechobee. They were still trying to determine whether more than one tornado hit Jim Lushine, storm warning coordination meteorologist from the National Weather Service Miami office, said he originally thought the tornado was an Fl, the second-least intense variety. But "most Fl tornadoes are only about 100 yards wide, and this is twice that, so it might turn out to be a stronger tornado," said Lushine, who drove to northern Palm Beach County to inspect the damage Thursday night Tornadoes, like hurricanes, are measured in categories to gauge their strength. The Fujita Tornado Scale measures tornadoes on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. According to the National Climatic Data Center, an Fl tornado ranges from 73 to 1 12 mph, and an F2 tornado ranges from 113 to 157 mph. South Florida water managers reported no serious flooding, despite rainfall that peaked at VA inches in North Palm Beach. In suburban Palm Beach Gardens, more than 100 mobile homes were damaged at A Garden Walk mobile home park on Military Trail, many overturned or flattened. Only one minor injury was reported, Bieluch said. At the mobile home park, it was hit or miss whether a mobile home suffered damage. Harry Hatcher, 66, who has lived in the park for 14 years, stood outside his home, shirtless, with a flashlight, estimating the damage. His screen and porch, destroyed beyond recognition, were sitting in his minivan. He and his wife, Elle, and their Chihuahua hid in their bathtub for a half-hour while the storm passed as glass flew everywhere. "It's pretty awesome," he said, "like the end of the world." Many residents of the trailer park were barred from returning to their homes overnight as deputies, paramedics and firefighters looked for injured among the wreckage. Military Trail was closed between Blue Heron Boulevard and Northlake Boulevard. And deputies guarded the entrance to the park. The sheriff set up a command post at nearby Grove Park Elementary school. Most major roads in Riviera Beach were impassible, and traffic on 1-95 inched to a standstill. In Riviera Beach, Brown declared his city to be in a state of emergency at 6:30 p.m. "We're keeping our fin- that were part of the storm machine, the forecasters said. Forecasters were sifting through reports to see if more than one funnel was at work. What turned a hot muggy day into an evening of destruction was the clash of a high-pressure system over South Florida with a stationary front that had extended for the past several days from the Great Lakes to the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Storms moving up from the sparsely populated southwestci'vA Palm Beach County crossed tlv mayor imposes Harry Hatcher, 66, outside his trailer at A Garden Walk, where he's lived for 14 years. He a and their Chihuahua hid in their bathtub. 'It's pretty awesome,' he said, 'like the end of the Where Palm Beach County got hit The storm peeled off roofs, downed trees and power lines, overturned trucks and mobile homes and caused havoc on the roads from north of Donald Ross Road to Riviera Beach. Fire: East of 1-95 and south of Donald Ross Road, still smoldering at 7:30 p.m. Started by lightning. A Garden Walk: Trailer homes blown apart and cut in half. Police wouldn't let residents back into the large complex. Pepsi-Cola Plant: Trees down. Two 18-wheelers were tossed on top of one another. Another truck tossed about 100 yards across a canal. Industrial Park: Debris and roofing material strewn about. Two tractor-trailers, one a FedEx truck, overturned on the highway. Windows were broken at Jack Nicklaus' golf equipment warehouse. Fifteen- to 20-foot palms turned over in front of the warehouse. gers crossed and hope that remains," Brown said in a press conference held shortly before 10 p.m. No emergency or curfew was declared in Palm Beach Gardens. A crew of 100 FPL workers from as far away as Miami was expected to arrive in Riviera Beach Thursday night to repair downed power lines, which posed a serious hazard, and to perform a street-by-street damage assessment, Brown said. He warned residents to remain in their homes, even if they were without power. "Because of the humidity Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and slammed into east coast winds that had moved inland in a line from Jupiter to about 15 miles west of Boca Raton, meteorologist Joel Orthfuss said from the National Weather Service office west of Miami. When the systems met, they began to circulate around each other, and "when they moved off the coast, it spun up the tornado," Orthfuss said. An unidentified pilot traveling north of Palm Beach International jr. 1 1 I V"" ! I Mi I -T ' -' ) n Atlantic Ocean Palm Beach g-. Okeechobee Btvd. W WesF Belvedere Rd.. palm ':. Southern Blvd. Bedcn it's kind of uncomfortable, but we want them to stay in their homes," he said, "or at least on their property. Stay in your homes. Stay off the street." Maintaining order in the city and keeping residents safe was paramount, he said. "After the initial shock, our residents have been very cooperative," Brown said. "As always, there were a few bad apples." As night fell, police geared up in heavy vests, helmets and gas masks at the Wal-greens on Congress Avenue and Blue Heron Boulevard before driving in small convoys into the city. Indiantown Rd. - v;, .. Donald Ross Rd, if 'AitY 03;" V -. PGA Blvd. Bs-'j'v.Palm fV Beach f i 2r Gardens '. , " A ' J .' f A 3 s Northlake Blvd. r ! I (uh ' Blue Heron Blvdi T Riviera j t, Beach - f j J .45th st i V XX3 J f J I Palm Beach ( I 1 . U I i ,' i ""mile j o"vsS U I : r ".- ' g. W Lake Park m I Tj ik, I ( I If I f r-M-LBlJ Li5 iLLf I j Y.4i Airport at 5:13 p.m. reported spotting the funnel near the Jupiter Inlet. Less than 10 minutes later, the weather service got its first on-the-ground report and it issued the tornado warning at about 5:30. Numerous residents called in additional sightings until about 5:40 p.m., when the funnel cloud was believed to have slipped offshore, Orthfuss said. The warning expired at 6 p.m. Funnel clouds usually last only a few minutes in South Florid;iL because the thunderstorms associated curfew LANNIS WATERSStaff Photographer He and his wife, Elle, world.' H Indiantown Rd. Driftwood Plaza: Large pieces of metal-roof blown off and twisted around palm trees. 2650 W. 28th St.: Home's roof partially blew off during the tornado. 'It just literally flew off like it was piece of paper,' resident Shina McGee said. Marcinski Rd.s, Blue Heron Blvd. and Old Dixie Hwy.: Pieces of road signs all over the road, trees snapped off everywhere. Wells Recreation Field: Container cars blown off the railroad tracks. Big light towers lay across home plate at the athletic field. STAFF GRAPHIC The drug store parking lot was lit up like a football stadium by portable spotlights. Across the street, Samuel Flowers lit a cigarette with Tremaine Pringley. "I got two words for you: heat and mosquitoes," Pringley said. "It's going to be a long, hot night" Staff writers Scott McCabe, Sarah Eisenhauer, J. Christopher Haiti, Deana Poole, Brian Crowley, fliil Galewitz, Eliot Kleinberg, Cynthia Kopkowski, John Pacentijoe Bonikowski and Jan Norris contributed to this story. to form The storm Hit at 5:13 p.m. and lasted 27 minutes. Tornadoes were believed to have touched down in Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens and Riviera Beach. Lightning struck about 800 times. Thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail, lightning and strong winds. No deaths were reported, ; but there were some minor ; injuries. 30,000 people were without electricity at one point Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, cars flipped, power poles snapped, and roofs were torn off businesses. Jim Lushine of the National Weather Service said he originally thought the storm : was an Fl, but could be reclassified as stronger. Tornadoes are measured on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the strongest An Fl tornado ranges from 73 to 112 mph. The aftermath Riviera Beach declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. Two persons were arrested for looting, said Sheriff Ed Bieluch. The sheriff had 80 day-time officers working and called in 60 more, along with 13 command staff. Gov. Jeb Bush put a state emergency management team is on standby. Lightning touched off a brush fire near Interstate 95 in northern Palm Beach County. Palm Beach International Airport reported no major problems, but for a time had planes land from the east only. Jupiter Medical Center said five people were admitted after being injured in an accident on 1-95 and Indiantown Road. All were listed in stable condition. Hospital officials believe the injuries occurred before the storm. But Florida Highway Patrol reported a southbound tractor-trailer was thrown off 1-95 north of Indiantown Road and against a roadside construction wall during the storm. The Coast Guard's Lake Worth Inlet station said there serious damage, just some sailboats pulled loose from their docks. The Red Cross was on the scene and three shelters were opened. Grove Park Elementary near Riviera Beach; Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Riviera Beach; and the Tate Recreation Center in Riviera Beach. Areas hit In Jupiter, winds riDDed large pieces oftheKev West-style metal roof off Driftwood Plaza. The roof above Nicolina's Ristorante and Lounge and Salon Antonio was torn off. In The River in the Bluffs neighborhood, large trees were uprooted. Roof tiles and insulation dirtied streets. In Riviera Beach, trees were down and three 18-wheelers were tossed around the Pepsi-Cola plant Near Blue Heron Boulevard and Interstate 95. an industrial park was hit hard, with debris and roofing material strewn everywhere. In suburban Palm Beach Gardens, at A Garden Walk mobile home park, homes were blown apart and cut in half. Emergency medical personnel went door-to-door to check on people. Many of the 100 trailer were damaged and a Pas ipak forced the evacuation of park resiaents. Traffic was directed nn Military Trail toward the east and west at the Blue Heron Boulevard intersectional. tornado with them are so powerful and move so fast, Orthfuss said. He said Thursday's storms were unusually slow-moving, at about 6 mph. Forecasters said that much of the storm damage appeared to be caused by straight-line winds rather than the circular winds of a tornado. They noted that television images showed trees all downed in the same direction. The range of wind damage from Palm Beach Gardens to Riviera Beach also suggests straight-line winds, they said. O

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