Ruskin, Florida-- As the National Weather Service was hard at work early Thursday morning issuing severe weather warnings associated with Tropical Storm Andrea, meteorologists in the Ruskin office spotted a blob of colors on their radar screens that could only indicate one thing: a tornado.
The rotation was first spotted around Myakka City in the early morning hours around 4 a.m. As the team of meteorologists tracked the cell moving to the north, they quickly discovered the tornado was on a direct path to potentially hit their office.
Meteorologist Nicole Carlisle was among those on duty overnight and said the team was ready to evacuate into an emergency shelter, but the tornado took a slight jog to the right, and just barely missed their facility.
"In a case where we need to get to safety, we would hand control over to our office in Melbourne," said Carlisle.
She said it's the closest call she's ever had in her six years working for the Weather Service.
The office is equipped with a "safe room" which doubles as the facilities lunch room- equipped with both coffee machines and refrigerators- but also a thick, steel door.
"It's exactly what we ask the public to do when a tornado threatens: get to a safe, sturdy room at the interior of your home or office," said Carlisle.
The National Weather Service says a total of seven tornadoes likely touched down across the Tampa Bay area Thursday as Tropical Storm Andrea moved through.
Teams will be out Friday to further survey the damage before making final confirmations.
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