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Strong storms, at least one tornado move through Southwest Florida causing damage to homes

Posted at 3:28 PM, Jan 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 19:01:57-05

TAMPA BAY, Fla. — Damage from storms Sunday morning was minimal in the Tampa Bay area, but to the south of Tampa, a tornado took out mobile homes and threw debris all over the place. It even knocked a semi-truck on its side in the middle of I-75.

According to the National Weather Service, there was an EF-2 tornado with winds of 118 mph in Fort Myers. The tornado was on the ground for less than two miles.

Residents of Fort Myers shared astonishing images and video as they spotted the powerful tornado moving through Kelly Greens Golf and Country Club, Summerlin Road and Old McGregor Boulevard.

The funnel is clearly defined and visible and you can see the debris swirl around the base, comprised of homes and people’s lives. It’s an unusual sight in Florida.

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According to Lee County Emergency Management, four people were injured, 28 homes were destroyed and 68 homes were so damaged they aren’t livable right now. There’s also one pet missing. Folks without a home are being transferred to a shelter, according to officials.

Around 9:30 a.m., FHP troopers saw a large tornado pass over I-75 along Alligator Alley in Collier County, and just east of Collier Parkway a semi-truck overturned on the highway. FHP says there were minor injuries.

These same storms moved through the Tampa Bay area and ramped up the rain and wind, yet the damage was minimal.

We got some pretty rough winds that we got through last night, and it must’ve been pretty strong to snap it right there, about 8 feet in up in the middle, to come right down. Usually, you see it just uprooted because of the rain, this would definitely be just strong winds to snap it that way,” said Reece Register, the property manager of a damaged apartment complex in Clearwater.

A tree damaged the roof and windows of two units. One renter told ABC Action News he heard a loud bang before he saw branches poke through the window and roof.

Register admits they could have dealt with more severe injuries if the tree fell completely on top of one of the units.

“It fell between the two buildings, huge oak tree, probably 3 to 4 feet around, fell right between those, and just some of the limbs hit the buildings,” he said. “Luckily it didn’t come directly down on the building.”

Red Cross was on scene to offer support to the residents impacted. Register says that was his first goal, and now it’s time to clean up.

"We’re just glad it landed there, and our residents are safe, we’re going to get this property taken care of this morning, we’ve got teams in route,” he said.

Hernando County reported some minor damage at a 7/11 gas station and there were also reports of wind damage to a shopping center in Citrus county.