Some residents of Flagler County are picking up pieces of their homes today, after Saturday's soggy weather turned violent. An EF1 tornado hit Palm Coast Saturday around 7:00pm with winds up to 105 mph. Seven homes were completely destroyed, and officials said 164 were damaged by the storm.
The National Weather Service in Jacksonville conducted a damage survey Sunday and found that the rare December tornado first touched down north of Espanola at 6:55pm, and then intermittently touched down on a path totaling 9.5 miles across the “B” Section of Palm Coast. Surveyors said the damage path ranged from 75 yards to a maximum of 150 yards on Bannbury Lane, before weakening as it moved offshore across the “F” and Hammock sections.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA), tornadoes can and do occur any time of year in Florida. However, December is typically one of the quieter months, with an average of only two occurring across the entire state per year.
Recovery efforts are now underway in Palm Coast. Mayor Jon Netts has declared a local state of emergency. City Spokesperson Cindi Lane said that will start the process to access state and federal emergency funding. She said there are also regulators on the ground to make sure all contractors entering the area are fully licensed. She added the Flagler County Sheriff’s office has a strong presence in the affected area.
"Mainly to protect the citizens and property," she said. "But also now that the cleanup is beginning there is a lot of traffic in there with contractors and cleanup crews so those law enforcement officers are making sure that work can be done."
The Mid-Florida Region of the American Red Cross is assisting the storm’s victims and first responders.
Spokesperson Erin Pagan said most residents with damaged homes are staying with family or friends until they can make a more permanent assessment of their future.
"We're also able to help the families that are out there when they have power outages and they're not able to cook." she said. "We're able take our emergency response vehicles or our mobile feeding trucks and take food and beverages out to the neighborhoods."
Pagan says the public can help the victims of the tornado with cash donations or volunteering their time."
You can follow Jeff Huffman on Twitter @huffmanweather and Kevin Meerschaert at @kmeerschaertjax.