MIAMI SPRINGS, FLA. (WSVN) - Clean up efforts continue Tuesday morning, after severe thunderstorms, including two tornadoes, made their way through parts of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, leaving behind a path of destruction.
Not long after noon, Monday, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado had touched down in Miami Springs. Meteorologists later confirmed it was an EF-1 tornado.
Earlier, the National Weather Service confirmed another EF-1 tornado touched down in Juno Beach, in Palm Beach County, as it moved from west to east with maximum sustained winds of 80 to 85 mph.
Damage, however, could be seen across the counties. In Miami-Dade, police had to block off an area near Northwest 72nd Avenue and 53rd Terrace, as they worked to get the power lines and tree branches off a roadway.
7Skyforce flew over parts of Miami Gardens where rolled over train cars could be seen, as well as downed trees on the train tracks.
Near 50th Street and 72nd Avenue, there were 20 to 40-foot trailers that crushed parked vans in an open lot.
Jorge Fernandez and his family were sleeping in their Miami Springs home when severe weather ripped through their neighborhood overnight. “At about 3:45, we got the alert on the cellphones, and it was about maybe, I don’t know, two, three seconds after that, that’s when we started hearing the wind pick up, the rain pick up,” he said.
Homeowner Ivonne Tiamaigo said she was fast asleep when the window over her bed shattered. “It was 4 o’clock in the morning. I heard a big growl and then a glass, and then the glass fell on top of me,” she said. “That’s when I realized what’s going on. It just happened in seconds.”
The winds also picked up her boat and dropped it on her neighbor’s backyard.
Tiamaigo said she feared for her loved ones’ safety. “It scared me, but all I was thinking of was if my mom was OK,” she said.
She later came outside to find her front porch gone. “You see things on TV, but you never think it’s going to happen to you,” she said.
The storm also destroyed a nearby baseball field and tossed around bleachers like a toy. Entire trees lay in the field.
The winds were so strong that area resident Rick Carral compared the tornado to a hurricane. “I was here during Hurricane Andrew in ’92,” he said. “In fact, this is very familiar. The trees down in the middle of the road, and it’s been a while since then; 1992 was the last time I saw this much stuff going on.”
The storm also hit several businesses in a warehouse section of Northwest Miami-Dade. 7News cameras captured fences ripped from the ground, trucks flipped, and power lines and trees tossed and tangled all over.
“When it finally all stopped, we opened the door, and then it was extreme destruction,” said Bruce Valdes with Roadway Towing and Recovery, one of the businesses affected.
“We have put our management plan in position, fully operational with the management size that we have,” said Gus Lovato, the owner of Roadway Towing. “The extent of the damage is pretty heavy here.”
Monday morning, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez went to Miami Springs to take a look at the damage. “It’s not something we normally see. Tornadoes are rare here in South Florida,” he said. “Whatever the area needs in terms of our services, we’re there 24 hours a day, anyway.”
Violent winds also swept through a neighborhood in Hialeah, at around 4:30 a.m., uprooting trees and taking down power lines. “There were wires down; there were safety issues,” said Hialeah Police Detective Carl Zogby. “We’re here tending to that.”
Surveillance video captured the tornado as it touched down. Debris is seen flying in all directions before the screen goes dark.
Strong gusts of wind ripped off roofs and blew away air conditioning units from small apartment buildings along West 10th Street. Officials have deemed five buildings unsafe, leaving 13 families displaced.
Neighbors said the roar was unforgettable. “The sound was terrible,” said Gustavo Orta. “We were about 10 minutes waiting for something bad, you know. It was raining to much, and the sound was terrible.”
“We came out and everything was moving around,” said Hialeah resident Oscar Castro.
Hialeah Police said one person suffered minor injuries after they were cut by glass. That person is expected to be OK.
Florida Power and Light crews cleared debris in Hialeah near 13th Street and First Avenue.
“It’s surreal, as in, you have one block that is deemed uninhabitable, and then you have the next-door neighbor who is basically untouched,” said Hialeah Fire Rescue Capt. David Rodriguez.
The American Red Cross remained at the scene helping those affected. “We’re helping 40 people in total,” said American Red Cross spokesperson Robert Baltodano.
The American Red Cross also handed out credit cards to help pay for food, medicine and a safe place to stay.
Okeechobee Road was shut down north and southbound between Red Road and the Hialeah water plant, as crews worked to clean up downed power lines in the area.
A survey team from the National Weather Service are assessing the damage to see if a tornado may have hit in parts of Doral and Hialeah.
At a mobile park home in Juno Beach, residents said they started feeling wind pressure inside their homes at around 1 a.m. Some residents said their entire home began shaking, and then loud winds blew away metal awnings and shattered windows.
Residents said it lasted around a minute, but it felt like an eternity. “It was just the loudest noise I’ve ever heard,” said resident Janice McCloud. “We didn’t know what to do, and I said, ‘Should we go to the bathtub?’ And my husband said no, so we just held hands and prayed.”
“Very loud, very, very loud, like a truck… For me, it was [like] a truck full of bricks,” said 83-year-old Martha Cavastranix.
Cavastranix said she was inside her home when the tornado ripped off her roof. “Yeah, I feel lucky because nothing happened to me,” she said.
Fellow resident Bob Black told 7News that he felt trapped inside his mobile home during the storm. “I thought, if this goes on much longer, I’m afraid that I could die here,” he said. “It was that frightening.”
Resident Bill Wilson said his home also experienced damage. “A piece from a tree had fallen onto my roof,” he said. “I was scared to death.”
NWS and State Emergency Management officials came to the mobile home to assess the damage. “A couple of the trailers, their roofs got lifted off partially,” said NWS spokesperson Robert Molleda. “One of them lost the entire roof and part of the carport, so we’re just assessing the level of the damage, and that gives us an idea of how strong the winds could have been.”
At William R. Dwyer High School, in Palm Beach Gardens, the storm brought down a portion of the baseball field and destroyed a shed. Inside the school, classrooms were turned upside down.
Winds also tossed bleachers onto the road at the Benjamin School Upper Campus, also in Palm Beach Gardens.
Along with the downed trees and power lines, the tornadoes left behind thousands of dollars in damage in their wake. “We’re estimating it was about $15,000 worth of damage, but it could be a little more,” said Miami Springs resident Evangelina Altamirano.
William R. Dwyer High School officials said they estimate the damage there at around $500,000. It is unclear when classes will resume.
Cavastranix said the roof of her mobile home had been ripped off back in 2004 during Hurricane Jeanne. She added that she’s not going anywhere.
However, some Hialeah residents told 7News they were moving out because they no longer felt safe living there.
A wind advisory remained in effect until 7 p.m. Area residents experienced sustained west winds of 20 to 25 mph, with frequent gusts to around 35 mph.
Monday night, FPL crews in bucket trucks worked to restore power that was lost off Northwest 53rd Terrace and 69th Avenue, in Northwest Miami-Dade.
Gimenez said residents with financial concerns about home repairs can contact the county, and they will be referred to the federal government.
The Red Cross is also on the scene to help those in need.
The EF-1 twister in Palm Beach forced the cancellation of Tuesday’s classes at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens.
Heavy damage was sustained, Monday morning, leaving broken bleachers and other debris scattered on the football field.
The tornado also damaged homes in Juno Beach.
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