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Florida Twister's Damage Assessed

The tornado scares a witness out of his shoes, but it claims only material goods as its victims. Gov. Bush declares an emergency.

August 09, 2003|From Associated Press

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Donald Garcia watched as a swirling funnel cloud tore off his mobile home's awning then hopped across the street, uprooting an old oak and slamming it into a neighbor's home.

He screamed to his wife and ran with her into a bathroom, waiting out the tornado as it picked up dozens of nearby mobile homes, demolishing them and their contents.

His home was spared.

"It's lucky that everyone got out alive. That's the miracle of this," Garcia said Friday.

Thursday's tornado surprised forecasters and carved a three-mile path of destruction, damaging or destroying 500 homes but causing only minor injuries. Gov. Jeb Bush declared an emergency Friday morning that sent state workers to help assess damage and render aid.

Most of the damage was in Riviera Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, about 75 miles north of Miami. The twister flipped over two tractor trailers, blew railroad boxcars off the tracks and tore the roof off a Pepsi plant. About 400 homes remained without power Friday, officials said.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 13, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 55 words Type of Material: Correction
Florida tornado -- An Associated Press article about a Florida tornado in Saturday's Section A repeated a quotation and incorrectly attributed it the second time to Rusty Pfost, a meteorologist. It was a resident of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Donald Garcia, who said: "It's lucky that everyone got out alive. That's the miracle of this."

"I'll tell you, truly, I was scared," J. R. Brown, a resident of Riviera Beach, said, surveying the damage as police cars roamed the streets.

Bernard Desilio, manager of Onesole, a Riviera Beach shoemaker, was outside moving boxes when the sky turned black and lit up with lightning.

"I ran so fast I lost my shoes," Desilio said.

The heaviest damage appeared to be at the Garden Walk mobile home park, where wind tore trailers from the ground and smashed them, leaving piles of chairs, clothing, mattresses and belongings.

The storm curled roofs off some of the 450 homes in the park and twisted them around trees. A gas leak temporarily forced out 200 residents.

Forecasters, who were surprised at the rapid development of the system, also said tornadoes normally did not form in South Florida in August.

"It's going to be more than a cleanup -- people's whole lives are gone," Rusty Pfost, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said.

"It's lucky that everyone got out alive," he said. "That's the miracle of this."

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