Deadly weather in the form of supercell thunderstorms and at least one tornado struck Central Florida early Friday, killing at least 14 people in Lady Lake and Paisley, a municipality close to the Ocala National Forest. As daylight came, there were still a number of people missing in the affected areas.

In Lady Lake mobile homes were destroyed, roofs torn off standing structures, debris scattered through yards and hurled into the treetops. The Lady Lake Church of God, a 215-member church that had just completed major renovations in the last year or so, was completely destroyed.

The heavy weather barrelled into Sumter and Lake counties around 3 a.m. before moving on to Volusia County. Authorities in Volusia County told the Associated Press that major damage had been done to numerous homes and businesses.

Airborne video of the damage broadcast nationwide on MSNBC showed complete devastation in some residential areas, homes shattered into matchsticks and splinters. Early estimates from local authorities indicated that the damage stretched over more than 30 miles of Central Florida real estate.

One blogger who apparently lives in the region wanted friends and family to know things were okay. The owner of CantKeepQuiet.com wrote:

As I’m writing this we are still getting news of possible tornadoes having moved through the Central Florida area between 2:00 and 6:45 this morning. At this time there are reports of major damage in Lake and Volusia County areas with several fatalities in Lady Lake, Florida. Interstate 4 in DeLand, Florida is shut down in both directions due to an accident involving 4 semis and a car that was reportedly caused by high winds blowing the vehicles over and/or into each other. Details are sketchy at this time but I can believe that high winds can responsible since semis provide such a large area of wind resistance to high speed winds coming at their sides…

In a Livejournal kept by a blogger using the screen name “tleventer,” concerns for relatives in the storms’ path were immediate, and serious:

Seems tornadoes went through central florida last night and the news was even talking about The Villages… where my parents live. Have been trying to get ahold of them since with no luck. The bright spot was when I first tried their house… I was able to get through to leave a message. They have an answering machine, not voice mail on that line. So their house does have power. Whether or not it has a roof is yet to be determined… but the answering machine worked so that’s a good thing. The lines are now clogged and nothing is getting through (…) Thom just called. Their names are not on any of the hospital patient lists or the transported to hospital lists in the area. Another bright spot. Still worried…

The Villages is a retirement community near Lake Sumter. The Associated Press quoted Villages resident and storm victim Lee Shaver, age 54:

“Every muscle and bone in my body shook . . . We don’t know what to do. We have no cell phones, wallets, IDs.”

An online diarist keeping a Livejournal titled “water_to_air” gave a strange glimpse into coverage of some other storm survivors:

I’ve been watching live feed of the Tampa Bay storms and tornadoes that struck about 3-4 hours ago. In the middle of the feed was a switch to this man talking to a survivor about if he’s seen any bodies. And the guy yawned and the survivor picked his nose. They then both got a huge shock when they were told the live camera was rolling…

“water_to_air” continued:

the damage is awe-inspiring. There is a street sign that collided with a car and **wrapped itself completely around the car** and just now part of a mobile home on the top of a tree! And now a trampoline wrapped around a tree trunk…

According to The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, only one twister took such a
deadly toll in 2006
in a single day. On April 2 last year a storm struck Newbern, TN, taking 16 lives.

While the midwest is notorious for the epic storms that strike each Spring, twisters in the Southeast and Deep South are often far more deadly, tending to strike late at night and in the early morning hours, when people are asleep.

Mainstream media sources for this entry:

— On-air coverage, MSNBC;

— “14 Dead As Storms Sweep Through Fla.,” The AP/Forbes, article by Jim Ellis;

— “14 killed by tornadoes in central Florida,” Reuters, article by Barbara Liston.

Steve Huff is the creator and main author of the popular True Crime Blog.

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