LAKELAND, Fla. - When Amber Reyes woke up to the heavy rains and winds in downtown Lakeland on Monday morning, she thought she had dodged a bullet.
Reyes had seen the reports of serious damage from Tropical Storm Debby the night before, but her neighborhood wasn't affected. That is, until she got off of her couch.
"If I was probably two or three feet over, it would have been much worse," Reyes said.
She likely would have been killed.
Just moments after she moved, an enormous branch from an old oak tree crashed onto the roof of her one-story house. Her fiancee was sleeping in the bedroom when it happened.
"I saw something come through the wall," said Johann Hunter, who himself missed being injured or killed by a few feet. "I was really scared," he said.
The rains quickly soaked the house as branches, leaves, insulation, and their personal belongings blended together in a wet mess.
"I lost everything. I don't know where to go from here," Reyes said.
The Red Cross and a Lakeland Fire/Rescue Chief helped find the couple a temporary place to stay.
Across town near Lake Parker, another home suffered major damage after a Magnolia tree was blown over in the Interlachen neighborhood. A car was crushed in the driveway.
"It sounded like a freight train or a Tasmanian devil going right through it," said Linda Franco, who said it felt like being in a full-scale hurricane. "It was awful," she said.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said one person was killed as result of the storm. Maria Barajas, 23, of Wahneta, died after the car she was in lost control and was struck by another vehicle during bad weather.
An apparent tornado touched down near Winter Haven, making its way through the Terranova area, passing Legoland, and ravaging homes near Lake Dexter.
Frank Van Druten said he captured the tornado on his cell phone video camera. The video shows a dark spinning cloud on the southern side of Lake Dexter, blowing out power transformers as it moved.
Beverly Garwood said she noticed the bad weather outside, but was stunned when her kitchen window shattered and burst into their house around 8:00 p.m. Sunday evening. The screened swimming pool area was next.
"I just stood there and watched the whole cage ... and then, just gone," Garwood said.
She and her husband lived through 2004, when four hurricanes passed through Polk County, one of them at category 2 strength. Garwood said this tornado was worse.
"We didn't get any damage like this, and they passed right over us in '04," she said.
Polk County Fire/Rescue said preliminary damage estimates could be $5 million. Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida in the wake of the severe weather.
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