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Damaging Microburst Slams St. Petersburg

Posted on Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 5:00 PM MST

ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- The system that brought the deadly tornado outbreak to Mississippi and Alabama on Saturday came ripping through Florida on Sunday and into Monday. The front brought tornado warnings into northern Florida on Sunday morning and progressed south with the front. The first line of storms arrived on the Nature Coast around 6:00 PM, and came into Pinellas County at Tarpon Springs around 6:45. The system brought Severe Thunderstorm Warnings to Pasco and Hernando Counties, but kind of petered out by the time it got down to the St. Pete Beach area. There were numerous rotating cells in Hillsborough County north of Tampa, and a couple unconfirmed tornadoes. I intercepted the line at Pass-a-Grille Beach, where there was plenty of heavy rain and very few lightning bolts.

Around 11 PM, there was just a steady lightning and thunder in the sky to the north and west. A second, much more powerful line of storms was on its way, and closing fast. Pinellas County had been under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch since about 8 PM, but the watch was cancelled and a Tornado Watch was issued around midnight.

As the line approached, the cell making a B-Line for south St. Pete bowed out and exploded. As it approached, the steady lightning and thunder sounded like it was right on top of me. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued for southern Pinellas County at 12:30 AM. The weather got steadily worse as the storm approached, as the lightning and thunder increased and the winds started to pick up. Shortly after 12:40, we got hit with this wall of rain and wind, which was a microburst slamming into us, supercharged by the bowing cell and the straight-line winds. Winds were easily 50-60 kts, and it was raining so hard you could barely see the tree line 40 feet from the house. It was one of those things that sucked you in and you had to just sit there and watch and couldn't do anything else.

All of a sudden, however, I heard a loud crash that sounded like it was coming from my downstairs patio. I quickly ran downstairs to make sure my slider and the window hadn't blown out. Both were still intact. I raced back upstairs and grabbed the video camera, but the microburst had all but passed by the time I started filming. The video can be found by clicking on the videos link on the right.

By 12:55, the wind had gone back down to practically nothing, and the rain had pretty much stopped by 1:05. By 1:25, the lightning and thunder were much less frequent, and I went to bed.

In the morning, daylight revealed the full extent of the carnage that happened overnight. There was no damage to any buildings, but there were tree limbs, leaves, sticks, and pieces of bark everywhere. The crashing sound that I heard when the microburst hit was a 15-20 foot long and 6-8 inch thick tree limb crashing down right next to the house.

The storm was still going strong when I woke up in the morning. Tornado warnings were up for West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, and Key Biscayne measured a wind gust of 77. Pictures from the morning can be seen by clicking on the photos link.

Posted In: Chase Recaps

Tagged: Straight Line Winds