Storm downs trees, knocks out power in Tampa
Ricki Ramierz got a phone call from her husband Tuesday afternoon to take cover. Minutes later a storm with strong winds, heavy downpours and thunder and lighting crashed through the area knocking down trees and leaving thousands without electricity, especially in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. "All of the sudden I looked out the bedroom window," Ramirez said. "Everything turned white and I heard the windows rumbling." As trees fell around their Seminole Heights home, she had her three children – ages 10, 11 and 13 – run to the bathroom and take cover. The youngest were shaking and crying, she said.Steve Jerve, News Channel 8 Chief Meteorologist, said there was a severe thunderstorm warning for Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Hernando counties at around 4:30 p.m. To receive a severe thunderstorm warning, there must be hail and nearly 60 mph wind gusts, he said. "It’s common to get sever thunderstorms during the rainy season," Jerve said. "Our storms are driven by the sea breeze. They are driven by heat and humidity, which we had plenty of that today. All of those things make the atmosphere unstable." Tampa Electric Co. said there were 9,000 customers without power at 4:30 p.m. At 8 p.m., there were 5,348 customers without power – the majority in Seminole Heights and surrounding area. The Hillsborough County emergency management officials said there were no reported injuries. The agency was removing trees, including a large one at 44th and Diana streets. The Amphitheatre lost some panels use to subdue the concert noise. It didn’t cause road closures, emergency management said. Tampa police reported that nearly a dozen intersections were without working traffic lights or had debris in the roadway. Lale Atkinson was doing laundry. When she walked out of the laundry room, the storm hit and a large tree came down, toppling the laundry room and its glass doors, she said. Shaken up she tried calling 911 but couldn’t hold the phone, she said. She stayed inside her Seminole Heights home as the storm hit for 45 minutes. "I dropped down on the floor," Atkinson said. "I couldn’t move for a while because I was scared to move. I thought the whole roof was going to come down." Robert Bertulli said he missed a close one as trees were falling around his home. "Thank God it missed my Jeep, my truck and my Harley," Bertulli said. "I must be living right." News Channel 8 reporter Josh Green contributed to this report.