Twister hits area

The roof of a barn collapsed after high winds from a tornado hit the area near Starke on Thursday.

Aaron E. Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.

A tornado twisted over a three- to four-mile stretch of Bradford County northwest of Starke on Thursday afternoon, damaging many homes but causing no injuries, authorities reported.

The tornado spawned out of a blustery front that brought high winds and driving rain to North Central Florida as it rushed through.

"Mother Nature paid us a visit," Bradford County Sheriff's Capt. Brad Smith said. "Several dozen homes were damaged, maybe even more. We are very fortunate in that nobody was hurt."

Smith said the worst of the stormy weather began in the area about 1 p.m. and lasted 45 minutes to an hour. The tornado occurred during that storm.

Emergency responders who were in the area saw the tornado, Smith added. Much of the damage appeared to be to roofs, including damage caused by fallen trees, he said.

Lots of trees were down, and power was knocked out to the area, Smith added.

"There are quite a few homes where trees fell onto them. There is a lot of debris in the roadway and power lines that are down," Smith said. "Probably our biggest issue right now is the power outages and the power lines that are down, limiting access to certain areas."

The storms were brought in by a low-pressure system racing across the South from the Missouri Valley.

The National Weather Service Office in Jacksonville said Thursday afternoon there were at least four possible tornado touchdowns in North Florida.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office said it had reports of trees down, at least one person injured, and heavy rain and lightning across the region.

Suwannee County Sheriff Tony Cameron said some street flooding occurred in Branford, where a small sinkhole developed. Some trees also were reported to have fallen.

No weather-related problems were reported in Gainesville or Alachua County.

A slight chance of showers is forecast for today. The high temperature is expected to be 73. Saturday will be sunny and mild, but rain is expected to return Sunday night. Temperatures will begin cooling on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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