An apparent tornado that touched down in northern Broward County Wednesday morning overturned trucks, crashed cars and was blamed for the loss of electric power for thousands of utility customers. Injuries to two people were minor, authorities said.
First reports of the storm came at about 9:30 a.m. around Broward College North in Coconut Creek and at Florida’s Turnpike a few minutes after that, said Arlena Moses, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami.
A spokeswoman for Broward College said in an email that because of the continued possibility of bad weather, classes and business operations were canceled through 5 p.m. Classes scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. or later were expected to be held.
The storm then traveled northeast to Pompano Beach, east of the turnpike.
“The threat is not over,” Moses said. “We’re looking at the threat of severe storms in that area throughout the day.”
Perhaps the most dramatic wind event: A passenger vehicle traveling south on Florida’s Turnpike was carried to the northbound lanes of the highway, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky said.
The woman inside survived after her car flew over the highway divider and landed facing traffic on the east shoulder of the northbound lanes, Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said.
“She had minor injuries and we took her to Broward Health North [in Deerfield Beach],” said Jachles.
He also described how the driver of a a tractor trailer that overturned was unharmed; airbags popped open in a pickup that rolled over and a third driver of a big rig from Dade City saw the storm pull the front of his hood off.
Florida Power Light Co. said 3,000 or so customers in the Coconut Creek area had outages attributed to the storm, “but all were restored in a matter of minutes,” said FPL spokesman Chris McGrath.
A power line was down along Blount Road, in Pompano Beach.
At noon, about 1,800 customers in the county had weather-related outages that were not necessarily caused by the apparent tornado, but probably from the rain and wind, McGrath said
Coconut Creek saw damage at an apartment complex as well as the Broward College campus, near 1000 Coconut Creek Parkway.
In a college parking lot on the east side of the Health Sciences Center, six cars that had crashed into each other were damaged, Coconut Creek Police Sgt. Henry Cabrera said. Photographs showed a silver Honda sedan resting on top of a black Toyota sedan.
“No one was injured at this scene,” Cabrera said.
Students were briefly put on lockdown but classes had resumed by about 10 a.m., and he was waiting for tow trucks to arrive, Cabrera said.
Natalia Triana, 36, of Coconut Creek is an administrative assistant at Broward College in the Health Sciences department where cars were battered by winds outside of building 41.
She got a text emergency alert at 9:28 a.m. from her cell provider that a tornado was coming, and the college also sent out recorded calls and emails, she said.
“We weren’t freaked out,” Triana said. “But when the emergency lights came on, we realized it would come to this area and we went to the center of the building to a conference room.”
It was all over very quickly, Triana said. She joined colleagues outside to see cars and a truck tossed like toys around the parking lot. Her vehicle was left untouched.
Brandon Mundy, 30, of Fort Lauderdale, wasn’t so lucky. A student and nursing assistant at the campus, he ventured out after the storm to see if anyone was hurt.
Mundy said he was sad to see his “baby,” a white, 10-year-old Ford F-150 pickup that was laying on it side.
“The tow truck driver told me it looks like it’s totaled,” Mundy said. “My truck was the only one to get flipped. So I might be getting a car this time.”
Geniece Stalliard, 28 of Coral Springs is a health science advisor at the college whose 2012 Mercedes Benz coupe was damaged when a car slid into its front end.
“At first I didn’t take it seriously,” Stalliard said. “We got the tornado alert and I was still doing work on my computer. The power kept cutting out.”
She said she was feeling shocked after the storm and how it caused so much damage, so quickly.
“My car is drivable,” Stalliard said. “This was my first tornado. But I’ll take the warnings more seriously. I’ll definitely pay attention next time.”
Across the Parkway at the Wynmoor Village Retirement Community, Coconut Creek Sgt. Kathryn Markland said one person, a Wynmoor employee, had minor injuries.
“Many trees were uprooted, trees are on top of cars, bumpers were taken off, and there was damage to the clubhouse,” Markland said. “One building has some structural damage to the roof.”
There were also broken windows in cars and in apartments in building 1605, trees were felled or broken at their trunks and lawn furniture was tossed about.
Dan Booker, division chief of the combined Coconut Creek and Margate fire departments said of the storm, “[There was] a lot of chaos and the saving grace was it was raining really heavily before the tornado came through, and everybody had pretty much taken cover before it hit.”
Booker said the path of the storm began at the college, went west into the Wynmoor complex and then struck at the Turnpike.
“Red Cross is coming out for the people in the building with the roof removed, because they’re going to need sheltering,” he said of the Wynmoor community that has about 14,000 residents.
Along the Turnpike, a tractor trailer was overturned in the southbound lanes, south of Sample Road, Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said.
“There is one patient, but no serious injuries,” Jachles said.
The Florida Highway Patrol reported the northbound lanes of the Turnpike remained open and at 11:30 a.m., two southbound lanes were open. A large tree fell across the Coconut Creek Parkway exit, causing delays until it is removed, Wysocky said.
“There were four crashes in the southbound lanes and two northbound,” Wysocky said. “Most were single vehicle crashes, meaning they hit a wall or overturned.”