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'Blessed that no one was hurt': Clean up continues after tornado rocks Polk County neighborhood

A door-to-door safety check by the sheriff's office shows no injuries as a result of the severe weather.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Broken trees, debris scattered, windows broken out and a roof torn off-- that's the scene of one Polk County neighborhood after severe weather rolled through the area. 

"I was outside and I just see sheetrock flying through the air! I had just gotten home from work and my roof was being torn off," Scott Leavitt said.

The majority of the damage came from his home. 

"If I would’ve stayed outside 15 more seconds I would’ve been in this mess. It's wiped out my car, my Harley, my truck, and it sucks," Leavitt said.

The neighborhood just east of US Highway 98 North is picking up the pieces Wednesday night after the Polk County Sheriff's Office says two streets, in particular, were hit the hardest. County officials say one home was destroyed and about a dozen others damaged in the storm.

A door-to-door safety check by the sheriff's office shows no injuries as a result of the severe weather, something both Judd and Emergency Management Director Paul Womble are grateful for.

"Once again it's a wonderful day whenever no one's injured. We can repair houses. We can grow new trees. But we can't bring a life back that dies as a result of a horrible event," Judd said in a press conference.

Womble echoed the sentiment saying it was a "blessing that no one was hurt."

Carole Ames and her grandchildren were home when the tornado hit. They were just about to go out, but Ames' intuition told her they better stay home.

"All of a sudden boom! The girls and I all fell on the ground and they said, 'Omg thank you grandma you saved us!' To have it this close, is crazy. I can just feel my blood going. You just get scared and you’re happy you’re alive," Ames said.

While most of the damage is contained to that area, the work is far from over. Lakeland Electric continues to restore power, deputies will be out all night while "people are putting their lives back together," and further plans to assess damage are being made.

"This actually was part of, what appears to be, a storm system that impacted Pinellas, Hillsborough and here in Polk," Womble said.

A tornado warning was in effect for parts of Polk County earlier Wednesday. The warning expired at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday morning an NWS survey found an EF-1 tornado with estimated peak winds of about 110 mph blew through the neighborhood Wednesday night. 

“The rotation from the tornado was elevated at the treetop level or higher for most of the path," a preliminary National Weather Service report said. The tornado’s path was said to be about 13 miles long and about 250 yards wide.

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