FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - An EF-0 tornado touched down in parts of downtown Fort Lauderdale, officials said, a fearsome sight that downed trees and power lines and was recorded on video by multiple witnesses.
The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday’s tornado touchdown a day later. Officials said it reached maximum winds of 80 miles an hour, was 1.5 miles in length and 100 yards in width.
According to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, the funnel cloud formed over land and touched down west of Las Olas and along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Hours later, FLFR Deputy Fire Chief Garrett Pingol spoke with 7News on the phone.
“Observed the tornado form right behind the firehouse in the area of the Las Olas basin, which is by Las Olas Circle,” he said.
NWS officials said the tornado formed at 5:47 p.m. and lasted until 5:50 p.m. They said it was initially located near Federal Highway and Southeast 15th Street before it made its way toward Las Olas Boulevard.
As the tornado gained strength, FLFR officials said, it made contact with some structures, power lines and marine vessels before it moved quickly toward the east and reached the ocean.
NWS officials had issued a tornado warning for a section of southeastern Broward County extending south of downtown toward Port Everglades. It was allowed to expire at 6 p.m.
Multiple witnesses recorded cellphone video of the funnel cloud wreaking havoc. Cellphone video captured the funnel cloud appearing to jump over condominium buildings. Several blasts and flames could also be seen in the video clips.
“At first, I thought it was birds flying, but then I realized it’s debris from the funnel cloud,” said witness Gil Lichtshein. “Maybe the funnel cloud lasted about 20 seconds.”
Witnesses said people in the area ran for cover.
“So it was a lot of wind, a lot of crashing and a lot of people screaming,” said Jordan Seiler, “and then a lot of people came into Coconuts [Restaurant] to hide as well, by the bathrooms and the hallways.”
City officials advised residents to remain watchful of any debris or downed power lines.
In an X post, city officials said no injuries have been reported, adding that FLFR crews “are assessing the damage, which appears to be minor.”
FLFR crews responded to a home along the 1700 block of Southeast 10th Street.
Justin Ivler said he was among the residents who lost power when the apparent tornado swept across several homes.
“I saw flashes of light. I saw furniture, palm fronds, boat cushions flying up in the air and coming back down,” he said.
Justin said he was home and chatting with his sister, Melissa Ivler, on FaceTime when he received a tornado warning on his phone.
“Suddenly, on the FaceTime call, my brother goes, ‘You know, there’s stuff blowing everywhere, the wind’s going really crazy,'” said Melissa.
Then the call dropped, so, Melissa said, she took a peek outside of her Fort Lauderdale condo, just in time to see the funnel cloud sweep through her brother’s neighborhood.
“I just see this massive tornado spiraling down,” she said.
Neighbors said that spiral went right down the water behind Chris Esler’s house.
Esler said he didn’t see the funnel cloud, but he sure heard it.
“All of a sudden, we heard that loud noise. It sounded like a train passing by the house,” he said.
That train of wind knocked down trees, furniture and power lines, area residents said.
“And then the power went out,” said Brad Pistotnik.
While Pistotnik didn’t see the strike that blew out the transformer near his home, he said he watched as the other symptoms of the storm moved through the entire neighborhood.
“All I could see was the boat going crazy and the trees going crazy, and the dogs were a little nuts,” he said.
Neighbors said they’re glad the craziness is over, and everyone is safe.
“Some folks lost some roof, and there’s some other damage so, yeah,” said Esler.
Brian, a 7News viewer, reached out to the station to say that an alert from the WSVN app is what helped keep him safe.
“My alert went off, Channel 7’s alert, told me ‘tornado,’ so I walked out, looked out the window and, sure enough, there was a tornado coming,” he said. “If I didn’t have the app, I probably would have just thought it was a rainstorm out there.”
FLFR officials said they also responded to calls about a damaged vessel at 1 Las Olas Circle.
“Debris was flying all over,” said Lichtshein.
Captain Billy said he and his crew hid inside his big fishing boat, Catch My Drift.
“I’ve seen waterspouts out in the ocean, but it’s the first time I’ve seen a tornado over land,” said Billy.
Firefighters responded and found some minor damage to several vessels, including a sailboat that was seen on the water after the sun went down. That sailboat was later towed away.
Florida Power and Light crews worked to restore power to the customers who were affected. Sunday afternoon, officials confirmed electricity has been restored to all customers.
NWS officials did not officially confirm a touchdown, until after they conducted a storm survey on Sunday morning.
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