NewsPolk County


North Lakeland neighbors still in shock after EF-1 tornado touched down Wednesday

At least two houses uninhabitable
Posted at 5:08 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 17:43:01-05

LAKELAND, Fla. — The community is coming to together to clean up one Polk County neighborhood that was hit the hardest by Wednesday's EF-1 tornado.

Most of the damage from the tornado happened near West Daughtery Road in North Lakeland.


Thursday, families cleaned up the destruction the tornado left behind. Many were left with shattered windows, fallen trees and debris. One tree narrowly missed a house.

Throughout the neighborhood, families were picking up pieces of their roof.

Many people are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened.

"This is a wake-up call. Definitely, 2020 has been crazy, but this is letting us know that we have each other and that if we stand together, this whole community, we're all helping each other clean, you value your life that much more," said Josue Gonzalez.

Scott Leavitt had just gotten home from work and walked into his house. He said in a matter of seconds, the tornado hit.

"Everything started shaking. It sounded like a train was coming through. My ears were popping. So I was going to go to a bathroom for a safe place and the roof was getting ripped off right behind me. The installation was going up into the tornado, then it stopped," Leavitt explained.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado caused the most damage to Leavitt's house on Gibson Shore Drive. The roof was peeled off, leaving everything exposed. His car, truck and motorcycle were also damaged.


Though his belongings are destroyed, Leavitt does not have one scratch. He said he is blessed to be alive.

"Fifteen more seconds, I would've been in this mess. It's wiped out my car, my Harley, my truck. It kind of sucks, you work your tail off for something and you lose it all," said Leavitt.

The tornado lasted only seconds, and now it will take weeks for people to clean up. At least two homes are unlivable, but residents are thankful no one was injured.

Paige Curran said this is the first time she's seen a tornado come through her neighborhood.

"My five-year-old was hysterical for a few hours. He couldn't believe what had just happened. He kept telling me, 'mommy, I don't ever want that to happened again.' Just trying to be brave for them was all I was thinking about," she said.

The Red Cross has been out in the neighborhood handing out cleaning supplies and offering snacks. They are also helping people find a place to stay if they need it.