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Tornado leaves mile-long trail in South Florida

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

By J. PAT CARTER and JENNIFER KAY
Associated Press

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Three tornados touched down in Florida as a storm system drenched the state's Atlantic coast, including one tornado that left a trail of damage more than a mile long in a suburban neighborhood, officials said Wednesday. Minor injuries were reported.

The storm system soaked an already-soggy region late Tuesday, leaving behind damaged property, blocked roads and fallen trees.

A tornado with top winds of 120 mph struck Broward County, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

"You could see the rotation of the whole storm system on Doppler radar," said Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the weather service. "It was really strong, and we were concerned about a strong tornado going across the metro area."

Up to 50 homes were damaged in Plantation and Sunrise, though no serious injuries were reported. About a dozen homes were severely damaged, and two trailer homes were destroyed, according to the weather service.

"It really could have been much worse," Gregoria said.

The debris field was strewn with twisted trees and misplaced cars, Plantation Fire Battalion Chief Joel Gordon said.

Neighbors gathered on a Sunrise street Wednesday morning to assess the damage.

Yom-Tiv Assidon picked through the wreckage of his home looking for his family's jewelry. The house's roof had come completely off, dining room chairs had been blown through a front window and the backyard pool was full of debris.

"We were sitting watching `Dancing With the Stars' and `The X Factor.' I went to get ice cream, and then the windows popped and we heard a boom. Now there's nothing left," Assidon said.

He took his wife to the hospital to have sutures from a recent cancer surgery restitched, but otherwise the couple was uninjured.

Randa Kader said her husband was in the attic trying to find a leak when her son ran out of his room yelling that the neighbor's roof was peeling off. As he did, the windows in his room blew out.

Kader, her son and two daughters huddled in the living room. "We couldn't find my husband for a little while. We couldn't hear him because of the loud noises," said Kader, 43.

When it was over, a neighbor's house was reduced to just its frame, four trees were broken in half in the yard and a concrete bench was cracked, she said.

"The strength of this thing was just tremendous," Kader said.

Barb McKie said her family had just seen the tornado warning on television when it seemed like the wind was rushing through their home. When it died down, McKie's husband opened their front door to see their neighbor's house missing a roof. He ran across the street to check on the neighbor, an elderly man. The neighbor was unharmed.

"I don't think that poor man knew what was going on. It happened that fast," she said.

"As many hurricanes as we've gone through, my daughter said this was worse than a hurricane," she said.

No injuries were reported in Indiantown, where a tornado with winds up to 85 mph touched down, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

It shook siding and roof shingles off a house, destroyed a barn on the property and blew out the roof and back wall from the VFW post next door, said Martin County Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Schobel.

"We're finding pieces of the roof in the adjacent pasture," he said.

A third tornado with winds up to 65 mph struck Indian River County, causing major damage to one unoccupied home and strewing debris for about a block in Indrio, according to the weather service.

It's been raining in South Florida since the weekend, and the rain was expected to continue throughout Wednesday. School officials in the Florida Keys canceled classes Wednesday due to possible flooding and lingering storms.

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Kay reported from Miami.

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