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Florida sees twisters as storm system moves in

Storms spawned at least three tornadoes Tuesday as they tore across central Florida, scattering roof shingles, uprooting trees and forcing schools to evacuate children from trailer classrooms.
Image: Florida storm damage
This home north of Tampa was among those damaged by severe weather Tuesday in Florida.Michael F. Ryan
/ Source: The Associated Press

A strong line of storms spawned at least three tornadoes Tuesday as it tore across central Florida, scattering roof shingles, uprooting trees and forcing schools to evacuate children from trailer classrooms.

No injuries were immediately reported and the storms eventually moved off Florida's Atlantic coast. It was the latest round of bad weather to hammer the South after heavy rain and strong winds Monday that hit Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and northern Florida, already reeling from storms and tornadoes last week.

The National Weather Service was still tallying damage information, but initial reports were that three tornadoes had touched down north of Tampa and two others may have struck in central and east Florida.

Twenty Florida counties were under a tornado watch for much of the day.

"To our knowledge, there's been no true structure damage and no injuries," said Jim Martin, Emergency Management Director for Pasco County north of Tampa, where at least one twister was spotted Tuesday morning.

Martin said high winds damaged about 25 homes and flipped over one car. Students were evacuated from trailer classrooms at some Tampa-area schools.

In central Florida, authorities reported no injuries but said the some homes were damaged, trees were toppled, roofing was blown off and power lines were downed. A train also struck a fallen tree on tracks in Marion County but did not derail, though some of its windows shattered.

Randi Cecil, 24, was on her porch in the town of Sparr, about 90 miles north of Orlando, when the wind turned gusty and trees started swaying. Then a tree cracked so loud that it sounded like a car crash and smashed into her neighbor's bedroom.

"It was the most horrible feeling I ever went through," Cecil said.

Progress Energy spokesman Tim Leljedal said more 70,000 customers experienced a power outage, mostly in the Ocala area in central Florida and in southern Pasco County, just north of Tampa. About 14,500 were still without power by late Tuesday afternoon.

The storms also passed through the Orlando area but no significant damage was immediately reported.

Georgia, Alabama problems
Atlanta-area crews were still clearing up fallen trees and working to restore power and traffic lights after squalls Monday pushed through Georgia.

About 43,000 Georgia utility customers were still without power early Tuesday, most in the Atlanta area. That was down from more than 290,000 at the peak.

Darkened traffic lights on some major roads Tuesday morning added to commuting headaches.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Konswello Monroe said power may not be restored to all Atlanta-area customers until Wednesday evening.

Thousands of Alabama Power customers were also without electricity after storms downed trees and power lines.

Alabama Power spokeswoman Keisa Sharpe said crews hope to restore service by Tuesday night to most of the 61,686 customers who were without power, about half of them in the Birmingham area.

But Sharpe said several Birmingham-area residents might be without power until Wednesday evening.

A total of 22,290 customers were without power in the Tuscaloosa area and 6,096 in the Anniston area.

The South last Thursday and Friday saw several twisters, two of which claimed five lives.