"It was quite frightening": Severe storms slam Florida as holiday rush gets underway

Severe storms hit Florida

Orlando, Fla. — For millions heading home for the holidays, AAA said this is the worst day to travel. But bad weather is making it even harder, after suspected tornadoes caused damage in Florida.

Severe weather is slamming Florida, just as the holiday travel rush is getting underway. In Manatee County near Tampa, Debbie Rhodden and her family hunkered down as a tornado tore through their neighborhood Thursday morning. High winds toppled trees and shredded roofs.

"It was quite frightening. It was scary it was extremely quick. We could have been killed. Very lucky," she said.

In southwestern Florida, a north Fort Myers family cried after their roof was nearly blown off their home. Officials said 70 mobile homes were damaged by a tornado and declared unsafe to live in at a community in Zephyrhills. In Leesburg, the storm mangled a home, leaving a trail of debris.  

Heavy rains also flooded streets in Tampa on one of the worst travel days of the season. That's concerning millions of east coast drivers as the storm system tracks north. AAA said about 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in winter.

In Lake Wales Florida, residents are starting to clean up after a tornado damaged this home and injured a woman inside. Parts of the state could see more heavy rain tonight before the system heads north.