4 Twisters Rip Through Florida

Miami-Dade police officer J. Aleman surveys damage at DWD Warehouse in Miami, after a tornado which moved through the area overturned tractor-trailers on Thursday night, March 27, 2003. AP

Tornadoes and violent storms ripped across the state, killing a man in his living room, injuring eight people at a golf course restaurant and flooding a community college with 1 1/2 feet of water.

At least four twisters were spotted in the state during a brief period Thursday afternoon, officials said. One in the Liberty City-Brownsville area in northwest Miami knocked down power lines, uprooted trees, ripped roofs off of several buildings and flattened one home.

A 67-year-old man was killed in his home when a 6- to 7-foot tree branch crashed into the living room. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue had not released his name early Friday. Four others suffered minor injuries.

"We were watching TV and we heard the windows cracking and everything caving in," said Shantavius Flanders, 16. "We hid in the closet." The roof was torn off of the family's home.

Several tractor-trailers were overturned, said Rob Handel, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

In Ocala, a wall of wind knocked down a restaurant hospitality tent at the Nancy Lopez Legacy Country Club at the Villages Marion. At least two dozen people were underneath it.

"For a while, I was airborne," said Richard Plunkett, 60. "One minute we were sitting there, the next minute we're 10, 15 feet away."

Eight customers were injured, including one with facial injuries that will likely require plastic surgery, said Toni Wilson, spokeswoman for the Villages Regional Hospital.

Gainesville's Santa Fe Community College was closed after 1 1/2 feet of water flooded three buildings.

"To us, it was something of biblical proportions," said school spokesman Larry Keen. "Hail was hitting the windows almost parallel to the ground, it was coming at such velocity."

About 39,000 homes lost power because of the storm, though more than half had it restored by the end of the day, said a Florida Power & Light dispatcher.
  • Francie Grace

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