Island View Seafood was badly damaged Sunday during a severe thunderstorm that generated several waterspouts or tornadoes.
Although no tornado warning was issued, National Weather Service Forecaster Ron Block said that signatures for cyclonic winds were seen on radar, and special marine warnings were issued for Franklin County at 3:31 p.m., 3:43 p.m. and 3:51 p.m.
The storms moved east at 30 miles per hour and battered both St. George Island and Eastpoint where witnesses reported quarter-sized hail. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded winds in excess of 60 mph.
Emergency Management Director Pam Brownell said three older mobile homes were damaged and had to be covered with tarps. One may be condemned. Sheds and trampolines were swept away across the community and many tin roofs were damaged in waterfront buildings on US 98.
She said no injuries have been reported related to the storm.
Part of the roof of Island View Seafood on Patton Drive was torn off and deposited in the street. An oyster boat lay smashed in front of the building. County workers quickly removed the debris from the right-of-way.
Multiple trees and large limbs were down in Eastpoint.
Parks and Recreation Director Nikki Millender said Vrooman Park on Sixth Street is temporarily closed for repair. She said the roofs were blown off of several dugouts and the chain link fence was damaged. Millender is currently negotiating with the insurance adjuster and seeking bids on repair of the fence. She said a work crew from the Franklin Correctional Institution will assess the damage and she hopes the park will reopen this week.
A big pine tree fell on the main building of the Sportsman’s Lodge complex on North Bayshore Road and reduced a screened gazebo to rubble. In the aftermath, bedraggled peafowl crowed mournfully amid dripping foliage and scattered debris. Fortunately, nobody was injured, although the gazebo was occupied by Charlie Griffin, a resident of Sportsman’s Lodge since he rode into town on his bicycle 18 years ago. Griffin, who was waiting out the storm, averted being crushed when he was saved by a sliding glass door that supported the tree when it fell. He was able to crawl from the ruined building.
“When you see something like this you just have to be glad if nobody was hurt,” said lodge owner Bob Allen, viewing the wreckage of the gazebo after the storm. “This was a day of miracles.”
On South Bayshore, the landward side of most houses appeared undamaged, but trees and outbuildings facing the bay were battered. An air conditioning unit was blown off its platform at one home. Roof shingles could be seen hanging in trees.
Henry and Elaine Kozlowsky lost their gazebo and a section of fence to a fallen oak tree and numerous branches were snapped off in their yard.
On St. George Island, there were strong winds but reports of hail were isolated. Several signs were damaged and lawn and deck furniture were strewn about.
In addition to strong winds and hail, the system produced record rainfall. Two-and-one-half inches were measured in Apalachicola, replacing the former record for 24 hours in April of just under two inches, set in 1975.
Witnesses noticed the first onslaught of the storm came from the south, followed by winds and rain from the north. Block said the counter clockwise circulation is typical of large storm systems.
According to Progress Energy, about 580 customers lost service for several hours due to the storm. Outages were also reported on Dog Island, St. George Island and Eastpoint. Most were in the western suburbs of Apalachicola. Service was quickly restored, within a few hours in most cases.
At Tuesday morning’s county meeting, Brownell said it has been confirmed that the damage was caused by a waterspout that made landfall. She said there was not enough damage to qualify for a declaration of emergency or FEMA funding.