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Severe weather sweeps Florida; 50 homes damaged

From Kim Segal, CNN
updated 2:20 PM EDT, Wed October 19, 2011
Joel Gordon, battalion chief for the Plantation Fire Department, said 25 homes were damaged in Sunrise and 25 in Plantation.
Joel Gordon, battalion chief for the Plantation Fire Department, said 25 homes were damaged in Sunrise and 25 in Plantation.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rain, lightning prompt school cancellation in the Florida Keys
  • Damage is reported in several Florida towns
  • No serious injuries have been reported

Miami (CNN) -- Severe weather has damaged more than 50 homes in several Florida towns, officials said, and schools in the Florida Keys were canceled Wednesday because of heavy rain and frequent lightning. No serious injuries were reported.

Damage assessments were under way in Plantation and Sunrise, Florida, after a suspected tornado swept through south Florida about 10 p.m. Tuesday. At the time, a tornado warning for the area was expiring, said Joel Gordon, battalion chief for the Plantation Fire Department.

Gordon said about 25 homes were damaged in Plantation. In Sunrise, another 25 were damaged, with six classified as uninhabitable, according to city spokeswoman Christine Pfeffer.

"You're in your house one minute and the next minute everything is moving, the house has shifted," said Laila Najm of Plantation, who was home with her mother and dog when the storm hit.

A tree fell on her home, causing the roof to leak, she said, and the house came off its foundation. Windows were broken, debris and standing water littered her porch and the home lacked running water on Wednesday. Her car windows were broken as well.

"We're so used to hurricanes here," she said. "It sounded like a hurricane but a thousand times stronger. But you feel it surrounding you, you can physically feel it coming from one side of you to the other side. All the windows shifted. The house just started moving, shifting up."

Three people sustained minor injuries in Plantation, but none were transported to a hospital, Gordon said. Some gas leaks from propane cylinders were reported, he said, and "we were able to secure those without any major damage or issues."

National Weather Service personnel were in the area, Pfeffer said. Gordon said numerous trees were downed.

"The biggest thing we're trying to get out to the public is to please stay off the roads," he said. "The roads in this area are very small, they're tight. We have to get big equipment through."

Damage was also reported in Indiantown, about 75 miles north of Plantation. A VFW building was "completely destroyed," with its roof ripped off, said Bill Schobel, spokesman for Martin County Fire and Rescue. The building was unoccupied at the time, he said. No injuries were reported.

A barn was also destroyed, and a house next to the VFW was damaged, he said. The homeowner reported "it sounded like a freight train coming through the house," Schobel said.

The first call into Martin County Fire and Rescue came in about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, he said. The region had been under a tornado watch for most of the day, and a tornado warning was issued in the early evening, he said.

Monroe County, Florida, which encompasses the Keys, canceled schools Wednesday as bands of thunderstorms with frequent lightning moved through, according to a statement from Sunny Booker, safe school coordinator for the county school district. The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for the area, the notice said.

"Bands of thunderstorms with frequent lightning are hitting the middle and lower Keys," the statement said. "A secondary cell of storms is moving eastward which is expected to impact all of Monroe County for several hours. The superintendent does not want students at bus stops in standing water with the frequent lightning."

CNN's Chris Youd contributed to this report.

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