ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Paul Close, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service office out of Ruskin, confirmed on Sunday evening that it was a tornado that hit a St. Petersburg motel Saturday evening.
Photo Gallery: Tornado hits St. Pete motel
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Close says it was likely an EF0-ranked tornado that lasted no more than 10 minutes, with wind gusts between 65 and 85 miles per hour.
Rosie Blidar and her husband own and manage the Rand Motel at 4800 34th Street North in St. Petersburg. She says the storm came through around 9 p.m. Sunday right before a massive downpour.
The sign in front of their business was completely blown out. The windows on the cars that were parked outside were also blown out by flying debris that landed in the front seat of one of the vehicles.
But the worst of the damage could be seen at the front office and the live-in apartment where Rosie and her husband live. Debris was thrown across the floor and, when you looked up, you noticed the roof was completely blown off.
Rosie says, "Suddenly, I heard this terrible noise which I never heard before. I can't describe it. I have no comparison. My first thought was that someone ran into the building. When I came outside, I saw the sky dark. I said 'My God what's going on?' So it was a very bad experience."
Her husband says they can't rent out any of their 12 motel rooms for the next few days because there is no power. They do have insurance.
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