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Irma: Tornadoes Blow Through Brevard County


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Tornadoes took this tree down in Indialantic. Photo: Catherine Welch

Brevard County residents say the hurricane could have delivered a wallop. Irma didn’t bring the lashing that was first expected but it did bring tornadoes.

Just south of Titusville there was one gas station with gas. The line was long. And tempers flared. Drivers fought over who got to pump a few gallons of precious gas.

As the fighting drivers worked out their differences David Trudnak and his son waited in line. Hurricane Irma sent him driving all over Florida.

“Well, we’re from Naples and we drove all the way up to Tampa, and then they said it was coming up the west coast, and then we came all the way to Vero Beach,” he said. “And we’re heading back to Vero Beach because I went to pick up my son up in Daytona Beach. A lot of traveling around.”

All along US1 and AIA on the beachside there were collapsed gas station canopies, crumpled business signs, street signs laying on the road, and plenty of debris.

In Cocoa Beach, the Banana River lapped dangerously near mobile homes. The Atlantic roared.

Farther south, tornadoes touched down in Palm Bay, Indialantic and Mims.

Just off A1A Indialantic resident Gary Vanzonneveld looks exhausted. He was putting a ladder away on the other side of the house Sunday night when, “I just hear a bunch of very, very loud hits.”

He knew it was probably a tornado. So he grabbed the dog and got into a safe space.

“So then I started looking around my house,” he said. “And I didn’t see any glaring issues until I opened up my bathroom door where there was a skylight and the glass was all the way down, the whole floor was glass.”

The roof of the motel across the street ripped off, hit a telephone pole, and the roof and pole landed on top of his house. Water poured in from a hole punched into his roof.

“Looked up and I saw the crossbeam to the telephone poll.”

Parts of the motel roof landed right outside his door. Bits of building, fallen trees, and a tangle of power lines litter the front yard.

Now he has to clean up the mess.

“Trying to figure out what to clean, what to move, how to separate it, what the house to be, how to prioritize it,” he said.

Peeled off roofs and downed trees show the path where residents say tornadoes hop scotched through the neighborhood.

Duncan Smith’s house was spared. He swears there was more than one tornado.

“It wasn’t just one it was multiple. I want to say five to seven times what we heard more than a train rumbling right by the house,” said Smith.

Transformers started to blow.

“Loud booms, almost like a fireworks show,” said Smith. “And we could see all the poles and the transformers, and you could see the electricity dancing around at the connections.”

His house was spared, but trees took down a swath of this next door neighbor’s fence.

The worst part, he says, was not being able to see what was happening.


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Catherine Welch

About Catherine Welch

News Director

Catherine Welch is news director at WMFE. Before moving to Florida she was news director at Rhode Island Public Radio. Previous roles as news director include WHQR in Wilmington NC and KBIA in Columbia MO. Catherine has won several regional Edward R. Murrow awards and awards from the Public Radio News Directors ... Read Full Bio »

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