San Marco cleans up after tornado

San Marco cleans up after tornado
Backyard off Hendricks Avenue
Ruination lies behind homes near Hendricks Avenue

Ruination lies behind homes near Hendricks Avenue

Things are a little sunnier in some neighborhoods due to a tornado that swept through San Marco one Saturday evening.

According to the National Weather Service, an EF-1 tornado touched down about 5:52 p.m. on April 25, cutting a 3.45-mile alley through San Marco after pushing ashore from the St. Johns River just south of River Oaks Park. In its wake, neighborhoods just south of Hendricks Elementary School were littered with fallen limbs and debris.

The initial damage was tightly clustered to a path of approximately 200 yards, the National Weather Service reported. As the tornado crossed Phillips Highway, several businesses sustained roof damage and trailers in the Pine Oaks Mobile Home Park were also harmed. The tornado eventually turned southeast as it passed I-95 and widened to 350 yards as it neared Englewood High School, where it finally dissipated.

For six minutes, winds reached an estimated 104 mph, the National Weather Service reported. The tornado cut through fences, snapped towering pine trees like matchsticks, ripped power lines from their poles and shingles from off roofs. A swath of “straight-line winds” continued to wreak havoc south and east of the path until shortly after 6 p.m., the weather service said.

John Mahle’s home on Pinewood Street

John Mahle’s home on Pinewood Street

Ten days after the storm, residents were still cleaning up. In the backyard of a home along Hendricks Avenue, the whirring buzz of a chainsaw could be heard as men worked to minimize scattered trees so they could be sent through a wood chipper. In an adjacent yard, a ruined cement shed could be seen, its sides and roof crushed, while the planks of a fence, which formerly hid the yard from Hendricks Avenue, lay broken nearby.

As Hilton Tyre picked up debris in front of his home on Shirl Lane, he said he wasn’t home during the storm, but witnessed the mess of its aftermath. The roof of his house had been punctured by a fallen oak tree branch and had incurred a gash four inches in diameter.

“The street was blocked heading north on San Jose [Boulevard], and we couldn’t get into Shirl,” Tyre said, noting that he had heard downed power lines had caused a “small fire” nearby. “San Jose was a mess. The police had it blocked off, then they cleared it to one lane and things slowly got back to normal. The city has been very responsive,” he added. “I was pleasantly pleased that the city responded so fast to get the trash picked up.”

Three 100-foot pine trees in back of his home were reduced to 30 feet, said John Davidson, also of Shirl Road.

At John Mahle’s home on Parkwood Street, the storm busted a window, downed an oak tree, took out a fence and blew the shingles off his house. “I picked up the dogs and ran to the center of the house,” he said. “Everything happened so quick.”

Across the street, the winds lifted up part of his neighbor’s roof, flinging it against a metal carport until it came to rest across the street, Mahle said.

Yet Mahle didn’t seem particularly impressed. Although the homes on Parkwood Street lay directly in the path of the tornado and incurred some of the worst damage in San Marco, he dismissed the storm’s ferocity. “It’s not the worst storm, I’ve been in,” he said. “I was in a sand storm in Desert Storm,” and in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. “That was a lot worse.”

By Marcia Hodgson
News Editor

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