One Venus woman was reported dead and a child injured after a tornado, one of several spurred by Tropical Storm Debby, swept through southern Highlands County Sunday afternoon, leaving behind severe property damage in at least two areas.
The woman and the child were both from a home on Montana Trail in Venus, according to the Highlands County Sheriff's Office. It’s not known at press time how they were related but the child was transferred to Tampa General Hospital, according to Sheriff Susan Benton.
While residents in other parts of the county also reported experiencing tornadoes, two touchdowns were confirmed as of press time, in Venus and the Lake June Road area, said Clell Ford, the county’s lakes manager.
The two areas apparently were also the most impacted.
A house on Bob White Trail, also in Venus, was completely destroyed. Severe property damage was reported in the 800 block of Lake June Road, Twin Lakes Road and the 200 block of Cloverleaf Road, according to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.
Resident Robert Pike, who is from Arcadia but has homes on Lake June Road, said he saw five to six homes heavily damaged on the 800 block of Lake June Road. One home had its upstairs ripped, he said.
His wife, Stephanie, saw a mobile home with only its foundation left. Several palm and oak trees were down on homes, he said, while several boat docks were destroyed. Five to six cars were smashed, he added, and power lines were hanging all over the trees.
"I’ve been here for 37 years," he said. "I have never seen anything like this."
Jennifer Cole wrote on Highlands Today’s Facebook page that she had one tornado touchdown by Macaw Avenue.
"It was a small one but scared me. I am just praying for these people who lost their homes. My girls & I hid in the closet. We are safe & glad it did not come directly at my home. The sounds of this tornado was very scary."
Sarah Holton huddled in the bath-tub of her Spring Lake home with her two children, one who is an infant.
She heard the sound of what she likened to a freight train.
When the tornado was gone, about 10 seconds later, parts of her metal roof, directly over the bath-tub, were ripped. Her porch to the side was gone and debris lay strewn over her front yard.
"That has me a bit shook up," she said.
Highlands County has opened up the Bert J. Harris Agri-Civic Center for use as an emergency shelter.
Highlands County spokeswoman Gloria Rybinski said 100 homes in the Lake June Road were without power as of Sunday evening.
Pike said Progress Energy officials told him the power would be restored by 10 p.m. Sunday
Glades Electric Co-op had about 210 customers out at one time. However, all but two have been restored, said Paul McGhee, business development manager.
"We’ve had a few scattered outages but nothing widespread," McGhee said. "We did have some poles and lines down."